Marijuana legalization: How Ohio employers should prepare


With the future of marijuana legalization now in the hands of voters, uncertainty looms in human resources departments across the state. Workplace substance abuse can impact intangible and tangible resources and has been proven to increase absenteeism, on-the-job accidents and employee turnover. Also, within company drug policies, the legalization of marijuana could create gray areas in what was previously fairly black and white.

The outcome of Issues 2 and 3, and the inevitable court challenges to follow, should not cause fear. What can you do now, even before the ballots are counted?

  • Encourage employees to become informed about the issues – Over 100 organizations oppose the legalization of marijuana in Ohio. These include major hospitals, the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, the state medical association, law enforcement agencies, major newspapers, unions, the construction industry, teachers, nurses, surgeons, the Ohio State Bar Association, substance abuse professionals, cities, counties, Republican groups, Democrat groups, chambers of commerce and countless others. Many of these groups have healthcare concerns regarding legalization, and also object to permanently embedding marijuana growing sites into Ohio’s Constitution.
  • Update your drug policy – One principle that will not change if marijuana is legalized is the ability to have and enforce a drug-free workplace. The most effective policies are ones that are clearly “zero-tolerance”.  Also, employers who are upfront with their drug policy are likely to deter users from applying, saving your company time and resources
  • Emphasize workplace safety – Employers have a legal duty to maintain a safe work environment. Employers can prioritize safety by making clear that impaired employees could cause harm to themselves or to others, especially in safety-sensitive positions. Help employees understand the risks of use, and use your policy to protect your most valuable assets, your employees. Updating job descriptions to clarify safety-sensitive duties is also important.
  • Consider the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation drug-free workplace program – The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation extends discounts to companies that drug-test and educate employees. Participation in the program not only provides for cost savings, but also assists employers in achieving long-term safety goals.

Employers can do their part now to prepare their companies and their employees for possible changes. By proactively addressing drug policies and procedures, employers who prioritize workplace safety and communicate their goals with clarity can help promote a safe work environment, regardless of the election outcome.

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