Oklahoma Medical Marijuana “Unity Bill” Takes Effect August 29, 2019

 

TULSA, Oklahoma – The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, commonly referred to as the medical marijuana “Unity Bill,” took effect August 29, 2019. This bill provides regulatory clarity to Oklahoma’s existing medical marijuana law, and includes provisions to help Oklahoma employers reduce safety risks in the workplace.

As stated in the original medical marijuana law, the Unity Bill states that no employer may refuse to hire, discipline, discharge or otherwise penalize an applicant or employee solely on the basis of a positive test for marijuana components or metabolites; However, the Unity Bill adds verbiage around this stating that action can be taken if the employment position in question includes safety-sensitive job duties. Safety-Sensitive is defined as any job that includes tasks or duties that the employer reasonably believes could affect the safety and health of the employee performing the task. Some of the duties mentioned in the bill are work involving hazardous materials, vehicle or machinery operation or maintenance, food handling or preparation, patient care, and firearm use.

A positive test for marijuana components or metabolites means a result that is at or above the cutoff concentration level established by the United States Department of Transportation or Oklahoma law regarding being under the influence, whichever is lower.

Tim Jenney, president of Oklahoma-based drug and alcohol third-party administrator, TEAM Professional Services, believes the Unity Bill is a “win” for workplace safety.

“Many issues have come from State Question 788 and its lack of clear guidelines for employers. The law has resulted in companies making poor decisions which have negatively impacted workplace safety. Fortunately, the legislators listened to the public’s concern and passed the Unity Bill,” Jenney said.

As an expert in workplace safety, Jenney recommends companies with safety-sensitive employees prepare for the Unity Bill by doing the following:

 

  • Revising their current drug and alcohol policy to include appropriate actions that will be taken if an employee classified as safety-sensitive tests positive for THC.
  • Identifying safety-sensitive positions in their company and updating job descriptions as necessary.
  • Ensuring supervisors have completed reasonable suspicion training and are equip to identify the signs and symptoms of impairment.
  • Educating employees on the Unity Bill and the company’s drug and alcohol policy.
  • Consider partnering with a third-party administrator to manage their drug and alcohol program to ensure they’re in compliance with state and federal laws. Having an effective drug and alcohol program is the most cost-effective way to maintain and foster a drug-free, safe workplace.

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