Oklahoma firms getting ready for medical marijuana policies for the workplace
Medical marijuana continues its march toward implementation in Oklahoma, and employers gathered at Rose State College on Tuesday to learn about the effects its presence will have on hiring practices and company drug policies.
Attorney Vic Albert and human resources professional Matt Tipton led the session titled “Medical Marijuana and Your Business.” It was the second session held at the college, which has attracted professionals from organizations such as OnCue, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Tinker Federal Credit Union, Midwest City-Del City Public Schools and more, all receiving information on how to adapt policies to new medical marijuana laws in the wake of the passage of SQ788.
“It's important for employers to fish or cut bait,” Albert told The Oklahoman. “They have to do something between now and November when medical marijuana can show up in their workplace.”
November is the earliest that Albert anticipates legal medicinal marijuana will begin circulating. He explained legal marijuana will need to be grown from seeds legally obtained, and those take about 120 days to grow to the point of production. Before that point, he encouraged employers to get ready by making some sort of adjustment to current drug policies.
“Their current policies are not going to be compliant, one way or the other,” Albert said.
Some companies will retain rules preventing medical marijuana in the workplace. Provisions can legally be made preventing the presence of the drug at the workplace. Language can also be included in drug and alcohol policies stating action can be taken if the use of the drug, even if it's legally medicinal, impairs an individual at work. However, unlike in the past, employers won't be able to exclude the hiring of an employee simply for the use of medical marijuana if done so through legal avenues.
But even that is tricky. Employees of federal agencies, or a workplace with ties to the federal government or federal funds, may opt out entirely and disallow the use of medical marijuana entirely. Banks, universities and companies with federal contracts might decide to make their policies reflect federal guidelines.
Clark Ingram is one of those who attended the meeting Tuesday, interested in learning about the law changes. Ingram is the owner and president of People Profits and has worked in human resources for years.
“I'm really interested in how this shakes out, not just in Oklahoma,” Ingram said. “How much of an impact is this really going to have?”
Ultimately, Ingram isn't too worried about the legal effect on the workplace. He compared the change to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace. It was a debated issue in HR circles, according to Ingram, with uncertainty about how it would affect hiring, much like this medical marijuana adjustment.
“That was a big deal 20 to 30 years ago and, if anything, it turned into an incredibly positive thing,” Ingram said. “It forced us to deal with reality that there were some people out there with disabilities that were excellent employees. How this will turn out? I don't know.”
Albert will be speaking again on the subject from noon to 1 p.m. on Sept. 13 at Sunbeam Family Services at 1100 NW 14, answering questions about changes that need to be made.
“There are effective ways employers can address this, just like they address all drugs in the workplace,” Albert said.