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Why is Everyone Eating Brownies in the Break Room? Legalizing Marijuana in Ohio

Updated: Dec 12, 2023


Photo: Joel Muniz / Unsplash


Ohio is Legalizing Recreational Marijuana: Here's What This Means for Ohio Businesses


When you work in an HR Consulting Agency, there is only one thing on your mind on election day: How complicated your life and the lives of your clients could become should certain laws or politicians be elected.


In November 2023, the first step of a statutory initiative was passed that will legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio for adults over 21 — this is known as Issue 2.  The act allows Ohio adults to purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, and the new law goes into effect on December 7.


At first I was scratching my head over Issue 2, wondering how we would implement policies around recreational marijuana usage that is legal in our state but illegal in our nation.


Then I realized that there's a lot of past practice on how this has been done in other states.


So before you get too nervous about nibbling on Jenny’s famous brownies at the company potluck or start ordering Funyuns for the company vending machine, read on about what we have learned since November 7th…


What should employers know and do to prepare?


Here are some questions you might be asking yourself if you are the manager of a small business in Ohio. Please contact our HR consulting team if you need more support or info in the HR department!


Should we expect and allow hookahs in the breakroom?


  • No - According to the Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis, employers will still have full control when it comes to preventing the use, sale, or distribution of the drug.


Yes! No more pee tests. Right?


  • No - Employers still have full control with regard to drug testing and mandatory compliance with zero-tolerance drug policies.


I guess Jim doesn’t have to hide it anymore as to why he is always so willing to do the trash run. We can now just turn our heads if someone is smoking weed at work, right?


  • No - There are no instances where employers would allow the use, possession, or distribution of recreational marijuana.

  • Employers can still discipline and discharge termination with just cause if drug policies are violated.


All kidding aside, there are some steps that employers should take to minimize possible problems that could come alongside the increased availability and legalization of recreational marijuana.


Take a look and let us know if you’d like some extra HR support!


Drug Testing Policies


Employers should continue with the same drug-testing policies that they are currently using, but there are a few things to keep in mind.


  • Marijuana is still illegal federally and government contracts that require mandatory drug testing may still be in place.

  • Ohio’s workers' compensation law has drug testing requirements and does test for marijuana.

  • Marijuana can stay in the body for longer than other drugs, so it’s important that you are clear about your drug testing parameters when you do this.

  • It is possible that organizations with mandatory drug testing may see more positive test results which could lead to further action and have an impact on overall retention.


It’s a good idea to remind your employees of your current policy as there might be some confusion. If you don’t have one, now would be a really good time to get that written — like pronto!


Employers should update their drug testing policies in employee manuals and clarify with their staff that even though marijuana is legal it is still prohibited per company policy, especially when it comes to any testing regimes and policies.


As always, If a staff member does test positive for marijuana, have an action plan in place about the appropriate next steps, and ensure that managers understand how to handle such situations legally and with discretion.


Handle Suspected Marijuana Use with Care


The legalization of marijuana in Ohio means that more people will likely be using it overall. Thus, employers should watch for signs of employees reporting to work under the influence.


But use care when it comes to what constitutes reasonable suspicion… after all, you wouldn’t want to accuse someone with allergies that they might be stoned just because their eyes are red!


Training supervisors to watch for signs of impairment (such as red eyes, odor, poor concentration, lethargy, paranoia, and anxiety) and ensuring that they understand the proper reporting channels is critical. Be sure to have clear policies in place which address what is “reasonable suspicion.” Advise staff of the proper reporting channels as well should they have any concerns related to a colleague's suspected marijuana use.


Be Aware of Marijuana Use in the Workplace (But Don't Panic)


Even though recreational marijuana is being legalized in Ohio, marijuana use in the workplace should be treated seriously just as any other drug or alcohol, and just one person making a bad choice could lead to costly consequences. There’s absolutely no point in compromising the safety and well-being of any person in your Ohio business, let alone risk the business itself!


We recommend that business owners and managers be as proactive as possible and stay on top of regulatory changes in order to protect everyone in the organization.


Are you based in or around Cincinnati, Ohio? Or looking for a virtual HR Partner? Our friendly HR consulting team will make sure your HR practices are fully compliant with laws and regulations.


Contact us for more information!


*The information and materials on this website are provided for general information purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. We attempt to provide quality information, the law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance. Nothing on this website is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney; therefore, if you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.


Sources and Further Reading


  1. Henry, Megan. “Passing Issue 2 doesn’t come with protections for employees who use recreational marijuana.” Ohio Capital Journal, October 26, 2023.

  2. Smith, Allen. “How Can Employers Respond to Laws Legalizing Marijuana?” SHRM, August 7, 2023.

  3. “Ohio Legalizes Adult Use of Recreational Marijuana: What Does This Mean for Employers?” Taft Law Bulletin, Nov 21, 2023.

  4. Monachino, Cameron. “Medical and Recreational Marijuana Considerations for Employers in a Hazy 2023 and Beyond.” Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, May 17, 2023.

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