Ohio Ordinance Could Restrict Medical Cannabis Use for County Employees

The members of the Summit County Council in Akron, Ohio are expected to pass an ordinance that would prohibit employees of the county from using medical cannabis while on the job. The ordinance, “Substance Abuse Prevention Policy,” amends Section 169.28 of the Codified Ordinances of the County of Summit, and it would also prohibit employees from possessing medical cannabis while on county property or while operating a county-owned vehicle.

“It still allows them to use the marijuana in their private, personal time but does pretty much prohibit the employee from using or possessing medical marijuana while they are on the job for the county,” said Jason Dodson, chief of staff for Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro.

The proposed ordinance would go even further and prohibit employees with specific job titles from using medical cannabis during their tenure of employment. “There’s a class of employees that we have, that we have outlined that cannot use medical marijuana—that is safety-oriented personnel, so anybody with a commercial driver’s license, anybody who is required as a term of their employment with the county to carry a firearm; they will not be permitted to use medical marijuana,” said Summit County Council Member-at-Large Elizabeth Walters, who compared the ordinance to already established restrictions for other prescription medications like opiates. “They may have a prescription from their physical, but under county guidelines they cannot use that or be under the influence of that medication while at work or during the term of their employment during the day.”

Advocates for medical cannabis are finding this ordinance controversial and unfair to patients who can legally use medical cannabis. “I think they are operating on a set of understanding that is outdated, and I don’t think they understand the full spectrum of medicinal cannabis; not all medicinal cannabis compounds involve patients getting high,” said John Pardee, President Emeritus of The Ohio Rights Group. “I understand their concern for wanting to maintain a safe and productive workforce, and I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding from the employment side of what is involved in some of their employees being medical cannabis patients and that is what we are targeting to do going forward is educating the employers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Walters thinks that the Summit County’s proposed ordinance was thoroughly researched by county staff and she believes it to be reasonable. “We do expect that this probably isn’t the final guidelines that we will pass as a county over the next one to two years. We are sure there will be adjustments and there may even be legal precedent that comes out that requires or helps us change and adjust our statute but, for now, we think this is a reasonable stand,” said Walters.

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