Attorneys with Gable Gotwals think there are a few things employers should be doing now to comply with state law regarding medical marijuana and reduce the risks to their company.

The duo of Chris Thrutchley and Stephanie Duran explained those steps, and other intricacies of the law, during the Claremore Chamber of Commerce Hot Topic Lunch Friday.

They told those in attendance that, as a result of the state’s legalization of medical marijuana, employers will “be dealing with the growth of a new protected class.”

“State Question 788 outlaws discrimination in hiring, terminating or imposing any term or condition of employment or otherwise penalize a person based upon either: Status as a medical marijuana license holder or positive drug test for marijuana or its components,” said Duran.

She continued in saying, “Employers may take action against a license holder who: ‘uses’ or possesses marijuana while at work or during the hours of employment and if the employer would imminently lose a monetary or licensing related benefit under federal law or regulations if it fails to take action against a license holder.”

The duo pointed out that there are no qualifying conditions to obtain a medical marijuana license.

She cited the top 10 most common uses as: Multiple Sclerosis, spinal cord injury, spinal cord disease, Cancer, HIV/AIDS, Arthritis, Epilepsy, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, end of life care. and Insomnia.

“And what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see this list? The American’s with Disabilities Act,” Duran said. “So, we suggest that you treat medical marijuana license holders like prescription drug users...and treat licensed caregivers like others who need approved leave.”

One thing employers should be doing now, they said, is identifying any federally regulated safety-sensitive jobs because federal law preempts SQ788.

They suggested that employers update all of their policies, including anti-harassment policies, disability accommodation policies, leave of absence policies and their drug and alcohol testing policy.

They suggested contact drug and alcohol testing vendors to confirm: “How the vendor plans to handle drug tests that are positive for marijuana and who in your organization is designated to receive confidential communications.”

The attorneys discussed communicating expectations with employers, and enforcing those expectations.