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What should employees know about Ohio's medical marijuana law?

This is the year that medical marijuana makes its debut in Ohio. For employees, that means it's time to brush up on how that affects their work environment and learn what it means for any workers' compensation claims.

Here are the most important things that you need to keep in mind about the changes in the law:

1. Your employer still has the right to mandate a drug-free work environment. Yes, that includes medical marijuana.

However, it's wise to seek clarification from employers about their specific stance on the issue. Some employers may choose to allow the use of medical marijuana while others may take a more liberal approach. If you are planning on getting a card to use the drug, ask for written clarification.

2. Your employer can still enforce a policy of "zero-tolerance" for drugs, including medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana is not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because it is still illegal on the federal level. For now, at least, you can still be fired for the use of medical marijuana -- even if it is on your own time and even if you have a doctor's permission.

3. An employer can still cite an employee's intoxication due to marijuana as a defense to a workers' compensation claim.

The new Ohio law doesn't change your employer's right to terminate you after an on-the-job accident if the employer asks for a drug test and marijuana is detected. It also doesn't stop your employer from using your drug use to deny your workers' comp -- but only if there's a reasonable connection between the drug use and the accident.

For example, if you were hit by a falling object, marijuana in your system isn't really relevant to the nature of the injury. Should your employer try to drug test you or deny your claim, you have a good reason to challenge the issue.

Since the first Ohio dispensaries open in August, it's wise to discuss these issues in advance if you're concerned about your future with your company but want to look into the drug for the sake of your health.

Source: bwc.ohio.gov, "Medical Marijuana and its impact on BWC," accessed March 30, 2018

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