March 12, 2024

Ohio employers are still adjusting to Ohio’s new regulations governing marijuana usage in the state due to Issue 2. These adjustments are due to changes in the marijuana industry, such as legalizing its use. For example, the ballot measure legalized the possession, home cultivation, and retail sale for adults 21 years and older in Ohio.

However, these changes have left many employers with lingering questions, many of which concern their obligations under the new law. Ohio legalized recreational marijuana use under Issue 2 (An Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use of Cannabis) on November 7, 2023. This ballot measure took effect on December 7, 2023, bringing many regulatory changes. This success marks Ohio as the 24th state to legalize recreational use.

Employers may largely retain their existing policies. This decision keeps the Act in line with the state’s existing Medical Marijuana Control Program. Issue 2 legalized the use, cultivation, and manufacturing of marijuana. However, it did not provide any explicit employment protections. 

Unlike a few other states, Ohio does not have existing regulations protecting employees’ off-duty conduct. Under the new law, employers can maintain a drug-free workplace. This permission includes the power to prohibit the use of marijuana. As such, employers may continue establishing drug testing and zero-tolerance drug policies. The Act also provides several protections for employers, including the following:

  • Employers may continue to bar the use, possession, and distribution of marijuana;
  • Employers may take disciplinary action against employees, including the termination of employment due to an individual’s use, possession, or distribution of marijuana;
  • Employers may continue to refuse to hire individuals due to their use of marijuana.

Furthermore, Ohio’s unemployment commission regulations consider those terminated due to marijuana use as “just cause.” Issue 2 does not offer employees the right to bring legal action against any employer for discrimination. Other actions not covered by Issue 2 include retaliation, refusal to hire, and any adverse employment-related action against an individual for their use of marijuana. 

The Act does not interfere with any federal regulations requiring drug testing. As such, employers with government contracts may continue requiring drug testing in compliance with federal requirements. However, Issue 2 encourages employers to include all drug testing requirements in their written policies and procedures. If they test for marijuana, they should include pre-employment marijuana testing in these policies. In addition, employers who test existing employees due to reasonable suspicion should explicitly include this expectation.

Information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only and should not constitute as legal advice. We recommend you contact your own legal counsel for any questions regarding your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.