Even though Ohio lawmakers have voted resoundingly in favour of legalizing medical marijuana, and recent polls indicating the majority of Ohioans support the plant's use as a medicine, patients who actually use the drug as prescribed could still risk being fired from their jobs, and barred from receiving unemployment benefits, if their employers wish to drug test them.
The House bill - which will now be considered by the Senate - addressed several controversial issues raised with legalizing medical marijuana, according to Columbus Business First, "including whether medical marijuana could be smoked (no) and if it could be grown by sick patients (no)."
But the most problematic aspect of Bill 523, according to at least one House Democrat, was its failure to protect medical marijuana patients from the laws surrounding workplace drug testing.
The bill would permit employers to use their discretion when it comes to hiring or firing people for medical marijuana use, even if it's legally prescribed. As many of 62 percent of companies report testing employees for illegal substances in the U.S., according to a recent survey, and it's the employee's responsibility to familiarize themselves with, and adhere to, company guidelines.
"A person who is discharged from employment because of that person's use of medical marijuana shall be considered to have been discharged for just cause," according to the bill sponsored by Republican representative Steve Huffman, which means they wouldn't be able to collect unemployment benefits.
People will be punished for using a legal substance
While employers are prohibited by law from asking about pre-existing medical conditions in a job interview, they do have the right to ensure employees are able to do their job safely and effectively. But Ohio's stance on workplace drug testing doesn't take into account the fact that, due to THC's affinity with fatty cells in the body, a person can test positive for the drug without ever actually coming to work impaired.
Democratic representative David Leland objected to the provision that would allow employers to fire someone for using a prescribed drug.
"We're punishing the people that are going to be using the very substance we're going to make legal," said Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus before the vote.