Last week, the Ohio Chamber testified on House Bill 523, which would legalize medical marijuana in Ohio. While the Ohio Chamber is not endorsing the legalization of medical marijuana, we do believe that tackling this difficult issue legislatively is much better than allowing it to be amended into our constitution through the ballot initiative process. HB 523 recognizes the significant impact that medical marijuana legalization would have on Ohio employers.
HB 523 would provide protections for Ohio employers by enabling them to maintain safe workplaces and enforce reasonable human resources policies. The bill clearly states that employers are not required to accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana. It also allows businesses to discharge, take an adverse employment action, or refuse to hire an employee who uses or tests positive for marijuana even if the employee has a medical marijuana recommendation. Additionally, if an employee is discharged for using medical marijuana, it would be considered a “just cause” termination and the employee would be ineligible to receive unemployment compensation benefits. Lastly, employers would still be able to participate in drug-free workplace programs through the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
HB 523 acknowledges the effect medical marijuana would have on Ohio’s business community by including a spot for an employer representative on the Medical Marijuana Control Commission. This commission is created by HB 523 and would have broad authority to regulate the medical marijuana industry and establish rules that would govern the roll out and implementation of medical marijuana usage.
The House Select Committee on Medical Marijuana has already held six hearings on this bill in just two weeks and hopes to have a substitute bill ready to introduce next week. This is all being done while Ohioans for Medical Marijuana is continuing to push for its constitutional amendment that would also allow for medical marijuana but lacks sufficient business protections.
House leadership has expressed the goal of passing HB 523 quickly. There will likely continue to be three hearings a week until the bill is voted out of committee, with the next hearing set for tomorrow.