OH: Businesses Prepare For Medical Marijuana

Photo Credit: Martin Verni

“We’re in the midst of trying to change our relationship with our culture’s most widely used illicit drug,” says Allison Sharer of Working Partners, a consulting firm that provides assistance crafting corporate policies and providing training on a wide range of issues.

Sharer’s audience consists of roughly 40 professionals, representing a number of different organizations throughout Putnam County. There are private business owners and members of law enforcement.

A number of school superintendents are present as well. They will have particularly unique challenges when the medical marijuana law goes into effect on September 8 of this year.

All are trying to understand what will be needed and expected of them once employees begin asking questions or revealing their status.

“Nothing.” is the easiest answer. Sharer herself points this out early-on. Businesses and other organizations can choose to ban medical marijuana’s usage by employees completely, effectively deciding that nothing will change once the law fully goes into effect.

But, what about public school students who receive a recommendation for medical marijuana? Will it be allowed on campus? Perhaps kept with the school nurse? Will the nurse be required to administer the drug, which remains illegal federally?

For businesses, what if a long-serving and reliable employee develops a painful condition, but does not want to take opioids out of fear of becoming physically addicted? What if a top sales representative reveals that they have been using marijuana to combat a chronic illness for many years, and they now wish to seek a recommendation to use medical marijuana? Will their past job performance impact the decision? By admitting that they have used marijuana illegally, does that make the employee more trustworthy or less so?

These, and a number of other scenarios introduced by Sharer, quickly communicated the complexity of the issue from the employer’s standpoint.

And, even though 29 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal uses, there remains no easy answers to several questions. The differing state laws themselves pose a challenge. “If you ever have an employee travel to another state, you have to know what you’re up for,” Sharer says. Manufacturers with a corporate office located elsewhere, and businesses that regularly send their employees on the road, will want to seriously consider having firm policies in place.

For specific considerations, Sharer divided employees into groups based on their risk factors. Operating motorized equipment and handling hazardous material were functional risks. Customer facing employees, such as outside sales representatives, were position risks. Then there are the security-sensitive positions. Those employees who handle finances, intellectual property, and other information commonly considered private or sensitive.

Even though the drug’s social acceptance and state-level legality is increasing, Sharer also points out the large number of unknowns that remain. The question of impairment, and specifically how long it lasts, does not yet have a medical answer. Further research is hampered by the drug’s schedule-one status at the federal level. This, unfortunately, does not help businesses seeking to craft policies for their employees.

The training offered by Working Partners focused on several scenarios and issues that businesses should broadly consider when crafting policies. The firm can also assist organizations with creating an employee policy that meets their specific needs. More information on this type of assistance can be found at: workingpartners.com or by calling: 866-354-3397.