What you need to know about the Unity Bill

What you need to know about the Unity Bill

Column by Fred Morgan, President & CEO of the State Chamber, published in The Journal Record on August 26, 2019

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act (the Unity Bill) goes into effect on Aug. 30.

This bill accomplishes two important items. One, it respects the will of the voters following the legalization of medical marijuana in Oklahoma. Two, it provides much-needed clarity for employers and business owners. The State Chamber of Oklahoma worked all session with lawmakers to help accomplish these key items.

We’ve also worked with employment law attorneys to understand the implications of the law for employers across Oklahoma. We suggest that every employer consults an attorney as well. Under the law, employers aren’t required to allow the use or possession of marijuana in any place of employment during work hours. But, employers are prohibited from refusing to hire an applicant solely because they have a medical marijuana license. Likewise, employers cannot discipline or discharge a current employee solely because they have a valid patient license. These are significant changes for most workplaces.

Employers can still conduct drug tests that include screening for marijuana; you must simply handle the results appropriately. If a test comes back positive for marijuana and the individual has a valid patient license, then an employer cannot refuse to hire, discipline, or discharge them solely because of that positive test.

The only caveat is when an employee performs a job that qualifies as safety sensitive under House Bill 2612, which includes “any job that includes tasks or duties that the employer reasonably believes could affect the safety and health of the employee performing the task or others.” It’s up to each employer to determine which positions within their company are safety sensitive.

If you qualify as a federal contractor or employer, you should be aware that HB 2612 does address employers who are required by federal law to maintain a drug-free workplace. Every situation is different, so you’ll want to work with legal counsel on this matter.

Bottom line: Every employer across this state needs to look at their drug testing and employment policies to ensure that they’re in line with the new law.

And even more so, we need the business community to stay involved in the legislative process. Medical marijuana is a part of our political landscape. Lawmakers will continue working for years to properly build the necessary regulatory framework for this issue.

If we don’t speak up on our behalf, no one else will.