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Disabilities and Medical Marijuana

The first of the medical marijuana dispensaries has opened in Ohio.  How can this affect your daily operations as a housing provider or employer? You may be a landlord with a strict no smoking policy. One tenant complains that there is a distinct aroma emanating from the apartment across the hall. You confront the smoker and she tells you her physician has prescribed medical marijuana to relieve her anxiety. You are aware of “reasonable accommodations.”  Must you allow her to smoke medical marijuana in her unit to alleviate her anxiety?

Or you may be an employer who finds that an employee has tested positive for cannabis during a random drug screen. The employee tells you it is medical marijuana. Because his job does not involve moving large equipment or other potentially hazardous activities, he asks you to excuse the positive test as a reasonable accommodation for his multiple sclerosis.

When the Ohio legislature considered decriminalizing medical marijuana in this State, it set guidelines. And
neither your smoking tenant nor THC-positive employee will likely be happy with the answers the lawmakers have provided.

First, medical marijuana cannot be smoked or vaped. Oils, edibles and patches are some of the acceptable forms of medical marijuana.  There is also a specific list of conditions for which a certified doctor may recommend – not prescribe – medical marijuana. Anxiety is not on the approved list. Furthermore, no employer is required to waive a zero-tolerance drug policy because of a person’s use of medical marijuana – even if he has an authorized condition and has acquired the appropriate formulation of medical marijuana in the State-approved manner.

These were straight forward examples. But as with most things in the law, a small change can lead to a different result. What if it were a tenant taking the proper form of medical marijuana for an authorized condition? Or, what if the employer does not have a zero-tolerance policy but discharges a person taking medical marijuana to alleviate cancer pain? The State Medical Board is empowered to authorize medical conditions for which medical marijuana may be recommended beyond those identified by the legislature. Additionally, the Medical Board is currently studying whether conditions like anxiety or autism should be added to the approved list.

As stated above, the method of consuming medical marijuana and the basis for recommending it are the two current foundational blocks. This issue continues to evolve.  For more information, you may consult Revised Code Chapter 3796 and the State Medical Board at As usual, we urge you to consult with an attorney before making a decision which may have costly legal ramifications.