Can I Be Fired for Using Medical Marijuana in Ohio?

May 06, 2021
By Peter Friedmann

In short, the answer is yes, you can be fired for using medical marijuana if you test positive for THC after submitting to a drug test requested by your employer.

Marijuana, generally, is still illegal in Ohio so having a medical marijuana card does not protect you from termination if you test positive for THC.  Employers have the discretion to hire and fire based on marijuana usage and can consider whether a person has a medical marijuana card when making decisions to hire or fire.

Some employers may take the position that the work environment should be completely drug-free and can terminate anyone who tests positive for THC.  That said, there may be some employers that will allow medical marijuana usage and will not consider it as grounds for termination. The bottom line is that employers have the discretion to terminate someone for medical marijuana, whether that person holds a medical marijuana card or not.  Just because you lawfully possess marijuana because you have a medical marijuana card, your employer can still fire you if you test positive for THC, if it chooses to do so.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not protect employees that have a medical marijuana card from termination, nor is your employer required to accommodate you by allowing you to use medical marijuana, even if that usage occurs outside of work hours.  If an employer chooses to accommodate a medical marijuana user, it has the right to do that as well.

Federal and state laws authorize companies and agencies to maintain drug-free workplaces. Those authorities extend to prohibiting employees from working while using marijuana and to requiring clean drug screens from individuals.

Balancing the rights of workers to access and use medical marijuana with the obligations of employers to protect their businesses, the public, and other employees will never be straightforward.

Know When It Is Legal to Use Medical Marijuana in Ohio

Ohio residents must apply for and receive a medical marijuana registration card before they can legally purchase marijuana in the state of Ohio. Having an application approved requires receiving a prescription from a doctor who is certified to recommend marijuana use for the treatment of symptoms of the following conditions:

  • AIDS or HIV-positive status,
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease),
  • Alzheimer’s disease,
  • Cachexia (i.e., physical wasting related to chronic disease),
  • Cancer,
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE),
  • Chronic or severe pain,
  • Crohn’s disease,
  • Epilepsy or another seizure disorder,
  • Fibromyalgia,
  • Glaucoma,
  • Hepatitis C,
  • Inflammatory bowel disease,
  • Multiple sclerosis,
  • Parkinson’s disease,
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder,
  • Sickle cell anemia,
  • Spinal cord disease or injury,
  • Tourette syndrome,
  • Traumatic brain injury, and
  • Ulcerative colitis.

The prescribed cannabis must be obtained from a licensed dispensary, and it must be used as directed by the physician.  This is a non-exhaustive list and multiple conditions qualify for a prescription for medical marijuana.

Employees are typically not required to inform their managers and supervisors about holding a medical marijuana card. Still, anyone who must take a drug test to get or keep a job can protect themselves by sharing this information so the employer is aware that the marijuana was legally prescribed.  Still, you may be terminated if you test positive for THC no matter what.

THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, can remain in a patient’s blood and urine long after any high wears off. An employer may perform drug tests and if an employee tests positive for THC, that person can technically be terminated since marijuana generally is still unlawful in Ohio, whether the person possesses a medical marijuana card or not.  You are not protected from termination if you test positive for THC simply because you possess a medical marijuana prescription. 

How Employers Can Treat Workers Who Use Medical Marijuana

Companies and agencies are allowed to make refraining from all drug use a condition of employment. Employers are also allowed to conduct scheduled and random drug screenings.

Examples of jobs that may completely prohibit medical marijuana usage are:

  • Truck driver,
  • Heavy equipment operator,
  • Machine operator,
  • Security professional,
  • Child care provider, and
  • Health care provider.

Testing for drug use is always permitted following workplace accidents, and it can be allowed when reasonable suspicion of impairment exists. Reasonable suspicion can include noticing a person is stumbling and slurring. A manager, supervisor, or coworker does not actually need to see you take drugs before you are asked to submit to a urine test.

Evidence of being high at work justifies discipline up to and including termination. The steps the employer can take depend on written policies and applicable laws. If you have been told you were fired for cause because you tested positive for marijuana use, you may still want to speak with an employee rights attorney. When, why, and how a drug test was conducted and interpreted all affect what managers ad supervisors can legally do with the test results.

Based in Columbus and with offices in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and other Ohio cities, lawyers with The Friedmann Firm offer free consultations on all types of wrongful termination cases. You can speak with an attorney by calling 614.610.9755, or you can schedule an appointment online.