State Chamber says medical pot would create employment issues

Posted by Charles Middleton on 04/25/2018

If the medical marijuana question becomes law as written, employers won't be able to make hiring or firing decisions based solely on whether a person holds a marijuana license, according to a State Chamber leader who called State Question 788 "sloppily drafted."

Adria G. Berry, vice president of government affairs for the State Chamber, said the business organization's leaders voted unanimously to oppose the state question.

In a column published on nondoc.com, she wrote, "Although we recognize the medicinal qualities and potential for economic growth in our state, Oklahoma's employers shouldn't be required to change their policies regarding drug testing and employee retention based on a sloppily drafted State Question."

Chip Paul, the chairman of Oklahomans for Health, which drafted the question and led the effort to place it on the ballot, said Tuesday, "If you're trying to defeat something, spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt is the best way to do it."

Paul said the State Chamber had distorted the intent of the question.

State Question 788 is on the June 26 primary ballot.

In her column, Berry wrote that the question says employers "may not make hiring or termination decisions based on a person's status as a medical marijuana license holder unless it would cause the employer to lose federal licensure.

"This would unilaterally change employment policies for businesses across the state."

Employers could discipline workers for using or possessing marijuana during work hours, Berry wrote, but not for using the drug before work.

Paul said in an interview that the question seeks to give medical marijuana users the same protections as people who use other prescription drugs. If an employer allows workers to use prescription painkillers before or after work, he said, they would not be allowed to bar the usage of medical marijuana for an employee not on the job.

The question would not give medical marijuana license holders a special status, he said, but employers "could not discriminate against marijuana."

Critics of the question have said it is written too loosely.

Paul said his group is backing a state House bill to create the Oklahoma Cannabis Commission if the question passes. The commission would be composed of physicians, law enforcement officials and others with expertise and would have the power to write regulations covering a range of issues.

Published The Oklahoman, April 25, 2018

Writer Chris Casteel