Last week, Ohio became the 25th state legalize medical marijuana. This new law is supposed to allow patients suffering from more than 20 different medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder to be legally use marijuana.
However, Ohio employers still have the right to maintain a drug free workplace, drug testing and zero-tolerance drug policies. That said, Ohioans may be a little confused about the possible effects legalizing marijuana may have on workplace standards, unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation.
If You Test Positive for Marijuana, You May Not Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Technically, employers have the right to both enforce their drug-free workplace policies and fire workers for violating these policies. Employees will not be able to sue their employer, even though they may have been prescribed marijuana from a doctor and used the marijuana outside of work. This also means workers who are fired for their legal marijuana use will be unable to file for unemployment benefits because they violated a workplace policy.
Additionally, injured workers who fail a drug test are at risk for losing their workers’ compensation benefits
, as the worker will likely be classified as ineligible. Moreover, if an employer of the employer’s insurance company can prove that a worker’s injury was caused by drug use (bearing in mind marijuana stays in a person’s system weeks after use), a worker who sustained a new injury will be denied workers’ compensation.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has expressed concern that this will lead to an underreporting of injuries and discourages blanket drug testing following a workplace accident in Ohio. While legalizing medical marijuana may help those with medical conditions, it may just create more confusion among workers and employers. The best thing employers can do is make sure the company’s drug policy is clear and communicate with workers so they understand it clearly. The law goes into effect September 6, 2016.
Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC is a workers’ compensation law firm that helps victims who have been injured in workplace accidents in Ohio.