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Oklahoma Voters Pass Broad Medical Marijuana Law with Anti-Discrimination Provisions

Oklahoma became the 30th state to pass a medical marijuana law after voters approved it on June 26, 2018. The law gives broad discretion to physicians in prescribing medical marijuana, which should make it fairly easy to obtain. Additionally, the law restricts employers from taking action against applicants or employees solely based on their status as a medical marijuana license holder or due to a positive drug test result. The law takes effect on July 26, 2018.

The law will be implemented quickly. It gives the Oklahoma State Department of Health until July 26, 2018 to make available on its website applications for medical marijuana licenses/caregiver licenses, dispensary licenses, commercial grower licenses, and processing licenses. It also requires the Oklahoma State Department of Health to establish by August 25, 2018, a regulatory office to receive these applications. Applications are to be approved/denied within fourteen days of receipt. A medical marijuana license will be valid for two years. Temporary licenses, which are valid for 30 days, may also be requested.

No “Qualifying Medical Conditions” Specified

A medical marijuana license application must be signed by an Oklahoma Board certified physician. However, unlike most other state medical marijuana laws, there are no “qualifying medical conditions” required to make a patient eligible for medical marijuana use. Rather, the license must be recommended “according to the accepted standards a reasonable and prudent physician would follow when recommending or approving any medication.”

Oklahoma’s governor, Mary Fallin, stated after the election results were clear that the new law “is written so loosely that it opens the door for basically recreational marijuana.” Prior to the election, Gov. Fallin stated that she planned on calling a special session of the legislature if voters passed the measure.

Medical marijuana license holders will be permitted to legally possess up to three ounces of marijuana on their person and up to eight ounces in their residence (as well as specified amounts of edible marijuana, concentrated marijuana, and plants). The law permits the issuance of a license to applicants 18 years or older, but also has provisions to allow applicants under the age of 18 to obtain a license.

Implications for Employers

The law provides protection to medical marijuana license holders against discrimination in the workplace. Absent the “imminent” loss of a monetary or licensing related benefit under federal law or regulations, an employer may not discriminate against a person in the hiring, termination or other term or condition of employment based on:

  1. The individual’s status as a medical marijuana license holder; or,
  2. Employers may take action against a holder of a medical marijuana license holder if the holders uses or possesses marijuana while in the holder’s place of employment or during the hours of employment. Employers may not take action against the holder of a medical marijuana license solely based upon the status of an employee as a medical marijuana license holder or the results of a drug test showing positive for marijuana or its components [emphasis added].

Employers in Oklahoma should consult with counsel regarding the implications of this new medical marijuana law and should update their drug testing policies.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2019

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About this Author

Catherine A. Cano, Jackson Lewis, Federal Disability Lawyer, Retaliation Matters Attorney
Associate

Catherine A. Cano is an Associate in the Omaha, Nebraska, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She represents management in all areas of labor and employment law. 

Ms. Cano helps clients navigate state, federal, and local leave and disability laws. Ms. Cano has experience in litigation and arbitration in several areas, including employment discrimination, retaliation and whistleblower claims, and non-competes and unfair competition. Ms. Cano’s practice also includes assisting clients involved in union organization campaigns, collective bargaining,...

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Kathryn J. Russo Disability Lawsuits Attorney Jackson Lewis Law firm Alcohol Testing Lawyer
Principal

Kathryn J. Russo is a Principal in the Long Island, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She is a firm resource on the legal issues implicated in workplace drug and alcohol testing arising under federal, state and local laws.

Ms. Russo assists clients with workplace problems involving drugs and alcohol, and gives advice about compliance with all pertinent drug and alcohol testing laws. She prepares substance abuse policies to comply with all federal drug and alcohol testing regulations (including all agencies of the U.S. Department of Transportation), as well as the drug and alcohol testing laws of all 50 states. In addition, she defends employers in litigation where drug and alcohol test results are at issue, and frequently conducts “reasonable suspicion” training for employers in connection with their substance abuse policies. Ms. Russo also counsels employers on leave and disability management issues arising when employees seek leave for substance abuse rehabilitation.

In addition to her workplace substance abuse practice, Ms. Russo concentrates her practice on employment litigation, defending employers in federal and state courts and before administrative agencies and arbitration panels in litigation related to employment discrimination, retaliation, wrongful discharge, whistleblower, wage-hour and related tort and contract claims. Ms. Russo advises clients on compliance with various state and federal laws affecting the workplace, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and New York State and City laws, among others. She guides clients through internal investigations, disciplinary actions and medical leave issues, and prepares workplace policies and employee handbooks. Ms. Russo frequently lectures and conducts management training for employers on a wide variety of employment law topics, including EEO/anti-harassment, FMLA, ADA, substance abuse, drug testing and privacy issues.

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