Uncertainties remain over how legal weed would affect Ohio employers


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Ohio could become the fifth state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana, when voters head to the polls to decide on Issue 3 Tuesday.

“The legalization of the use of marijuana does not mean it’s a free for all,” Christine Link with the ACLU of Ohio said it’ll still be legal for most employers to fire employees if they have pot in their system while on the job. “Things don’t really change because of legalization.”

Link said the employees with the most protection are union employees, depending how union contracts are written for drug tests.

The issue of marijuana in the workplace isn’t only an issue Ohio has faced. Shortly after Oregon legalized recreational marijuana, attorneys were unsure how that state would handle drug tests.

“It’s not clear in all respects what the employer is going to be allowed to do,” Oregon Attorney Jim Baumgartner said.

If voters choose to legalize marijuana, the drug would take on a status similar to alcohol, and in some cases cigarettes. It’s legal to use either one of those two, but employers in most cases can regulate if you can have tobacco or alcohol in your system, something people have experienced in other states where recreational marijuana is legalized.

Here in the Valley, WKBN talked with several large employers about what they’d do if marijuana is legalized.

A spokesperson for Youngstown State University said the school will most likely handle marijuana like they do alcohol.

As for Trumbull and Mahoning County employees, there are a lot of uncertainties and questions on what the counties will do.

A lot of those employees are drug tested before starting a job.

And Mercy Health of Youngstown said it’s too early to guess, because there are too many unknowns.

“As long as it’s not done in a discriminatory fashion, an employer can implement that,” Baumgartner said.

If Issue 3 passes next week, the best advice is for employees to find out what their company policies are to make sure they don’t get in trouble with their employers.

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