QUESTION: In light of Oklahoma’s recent legalization of the use of medical marijuana, we are reminded that they join a majority of states that have already done so, begging the question of how does this affect the workplace and what requirements are placed on employers to accommodate the use of medical marijuana?
ANSWER: The answer to this question is unfortunately not simple, but rather varies state to state. As the laws pertaining to use of medical marijuana are unique to each state, so too are the laws governing the workplace and an employer’s duty to accommodate for such use. Although Oklahoma has yet to address the effect its legalization may have on the workplace, states that have been faced with these issues may lend some guidance. Some states, such as Georgia and Washington, have legalized use of medical marijuana but still permit employers to have a written zero tolerance policy prohibiting the on-duty and off-duty use of marijuana. Other states, such as Arizona and Pennsylvania, prohibit employers from taking any adverse action against an employee for use of medical marijuana. Importantly, those states that may prohibit adverse actions for an employee’s use of medical marijuana tend not to impose any affirmative duty on the employer to accommodate that employee’s usage. Further, there are some states that disallow such adverse actions, yet do not prohibit employers from banning the use of such substances during work hours or on the work premises. Not to be forgotten are the states that either have not yet legalized medical marijuana use or that have not addressed its effect on the workplace, namely Oklahoma.
As exhibited, these laws are not so cut and dry; making it important to take a deeper look into what exactly is and is not required of the employer. With the ever-growing popularity and shift toward legalization of medical marijuana use in the country, it is important to remain aware of your state’s stance on usage as well as any prohibitions or requirements placed on the employer when legalized.