On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, Oklahomans went to the polls and approved an initiative to legalize medical marijuana. The new law, which provides certain employment protections to workers who hold a valid medical marijuana license issued by the Oklahoma Department of Health, has raised questions for employers who are concerned about workplace safety. In a front-page business Q&A with The Oklahoman published just two days after the vote, labor and employment attorney Charlie Plumb addressed those concerns and reminded employers of what they need to do now to start preparing for the law’s implementation.
“Misinformation continues to run rampant about what the new law does and doesn’t permit as it pertains to employer and employee rights,” said Plumb. “That’s why it’s important for employers to start educating their employees now about medical marijuana and the workplace. Make sure to explain your employees that: First, the law only applies to individuals who have a valid medical marijuana license issued by the Oklahoma Department of Health. For everyone else, marijuana use and possession is just as illegal as it was before the election. Second, the possession or use of marijuana at work or during hours of employment still is prohibited, regardless of whether the employee holds a valid license. Third, being impaired or under the influence of marijuana while at work remains strictly forbidden under all circumstances and may lead to termination.”
In addition to educating workforces about the new law, Plumb advised employers to invest time in developing the skills of their managers and supervisors on how to recognize and document impairment in the workplace. If a lawsuit is ever filed, such documentation will be vital in defending a company’s action to discipline or terminate an employee, he said.