The Cleveland City Council has recently proposed an ordinance to decriminalize marijuana possession. If passed by the Council, the ordinance will eliminate any monetary fine or jail time for possessing up to 200 grams of marijuana. Per the proposed ordinance, a misdemeanor marijuana conviction in the city of Cleveland will no longer be considered a criminal record such that the individual will need to report the conviction to potential employers.

Cleveland’s proposed ordinance follows in the footsteps of several states and other major cities that have loosened marijuana use and possession laws in recent years. While the patchwork of adult-use and medical marijuana legislation across the country has caused headaches for employers, especially those with a multi-state presence, the addition of the proposed Cleveland ordinance should not add any additional burden to employers.

When Ohio enacted its medical marijuana program (Ohio Revised Code Chapter 3796) approximately one year ago, the Ohio General Assembly included several protections for employers, none of which should be impacted by Cleveland’s proposed ordinance.

Although Ohio law allows registered patients to use medical marijuana for certain qualifying conditions, employers may continue to enforce a drug-free workplace policy and continue to test employees and applicants for marijuana and other illegal substances.  Specifically, Ohio law does not require employers to permit or accommodate employee use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana. Going even further, employers are able to discipline, terminate, refuse to hire, or take other adverse action against individuals based upon use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana. Ohio has not legalized adult-use marijuana.

If Cleveland’s proposed ordinance passes, it will join other Ohio cities such as Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo, and Dayton in decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. However, while the proposed ordinance is a positive criminal law reform, this development in local law is not likely to impact Ohio employers who wish to maintain drug-free workplaces.