State Chamber Wants Clarification in Statute for Businesses amid SQ788’s Passage
By Corey Perry
Oklahoma City – The Joint Legislative Medical Marijuana Working Group met today to hear the leading voice for employers in the state of Oklahoma. The State Chamber of Commerce presented to the working group represented by President and CEO, Fred Morgan, Vice President Government Affairs, Adria Berry, and Courtney Warmington, Attorney at Fuller, Tubb & Bickford, PLLC.
Mr. Morgan focused his presentation on the changes to the regulatory environment for businesses in the state of Oklahoma that has been brought about due to the passage of SQ788. Some of the immediate concerns of the state chamber are the “new protected class of works the state question creates, outlawed discrimination in hiring, termination or imposing any term or condition of employment or otherwise penalizing a person based upon either: status as a medical marijuana license holder or positive drug test for marijuana or its components. The chamber would like the legislature to provide statutory employment protections. Attorney Warmington said in her 20 years in this field of law no law related to employers has given her greater concern, she also stated that “according to the law no matter what position you’re in for a company if you test positive for marijuana no action can be taken.”
The Chamber feels that the new law would truly make marijuana medical “by listening to medical experts and adding qualifying conditions to the statute, which will put the states medical program on par with other states including Colorado, California, and Arkansas. The chamber would also like for the legislature to provide a list of qualifying conditions in statute. Mr. Morgan said that the chamber is concerned about employer and employee protections together and expressed concern in the way of uncertainty for what employers can and cannot do without clarification in the law. The State Chamber wants a safety-sensitive exemption in the law to allow employers to place or not place card holders in certain labor positions. Warmington felt that some jobs that are so safety-sensitive in OK that employers shouldn’t have to wait for something to happen to fire someone. At one point during the question and answer portion of the meeting House Majority Floor Leader Echols made a point that he believed SQ788 gives employers latitude because in subsection b.(2) of the law there is a the phrasing “testing positive cannot SOLELY be grounds for termination…”, Warmington would like to think that Representative Echols’ interpretation of subsection b.(2) and the line including the word “SOLEY” is correct but was clear that she was not sure if Echols interpretation is correct or not and that is why there is a need for further clarification. Warmington also stated that every employer she’s spoken to with a federal contract aren’t sure if their contract would be in jeopardy should they employee individuals that hold medical marijuana cards and partake in the medicine since marijuana is still considered a schedule I drug and illegal by the federal government.
The State Chamber’s presentation summed up its desire to get clarification in the law for its members and businesses overall in the state of Oklahoma.