Employers concerned over marijuana in the workplace

Employers concerned over marijuana in the workplace

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - In three weeks, voters in Ohio will have the chance to decide whether or not to legalize marijuana. If Ohioans approve the measure, employers will face a lot of questions about how it could affect workplace policies. Many employees will also be wrestling with a lot of concerns.

This is an issue Colorado is dealing with right now since marijuana was legalized there. An employee fired for using marijuana took his case to court for answers recently.

Brandon Coats, 33, of Colorado, was paralyzed as a teen. He says medical marijuana helps control his seizures.

"It's really hard to live my life without marijuana. I'm constantly shaking," Coats said.

The telephone operator at Dish Network was fired five years ago after he failed a company drug test. Coats says he never used the drug at work, but his company had a zero-tolerance drug policy.

This summer, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled there is no employment protection for marijuana users in the state. The court said marijuana is still banned by the federal government, even though it was approved by Colorado voters.

"We have a law making marijuana legal in Colorado. We need to address the issues that come along with it, such as employment. If we're going to allow people to smoke marijuana, are we not going to allow them to work?" Coats said.

It's a scenario that could play out here in Ohio if voters approve a ballot measure to legalize marijuana. Employers are watching the measure closely and its possible effects on workplace policies.

Coats' attorney says at least his case let employees in Colorado know marijuana use can still get you fired -- even if it's legal in the state and used outside of work.

"Based on this decision, there's no gray area. It gives clear guidance to employers and employees now, and they didn't have that before," said Michael Evans, Coats' attorney.

The Ohio Secretary of State is meeting with business leaders on Tuesday morning in Cleveland for a press conference to discuss the issue. They are expected touch on what other states, like Colorado, have been dealing with.

Learn more about Issue 2 and Issue 3.

Copyright 2015 WOIO. All rights reserved.