Drug screening in the state does not legally protect those who test positive for medical marijuana. graphic by Conner Maggio

Okla. marijuana laws in legal gray area

Unsettled medical marijuana laws will stunt revenue growth and employment for the state until clarified.

With the recent legalization of medical marijuana in Oklahoma, we need to discuss thoughts and theories on its future implications. How will we benefit? What struggles will we face?

Since the law has only been voted into place this July and is at the beginning stages of operations, it is too early to make any observations. However, we can look at the examples of other states who have legalized medical marijuana.

The Drug Policy Alliance, or DPA, has compared many reports between states pre- and post-marijuana legalisation. One aspect that should be noted is traffic incident reports.

At first glance, allowing a new substance that can intoxicate drivers seems like it would increase the number of users driving under the influence. However, data from Colorado and Washington has shown that the numbers haven’t changed. Great news!

Marijuana does not affect a person in the same way as alcohol. This leads to two different problems. Problem one: if an intoxicated person is stopped and tested for drugs, since marijuana stays in the body longer post-high than alcohol, this person can be wrongly charged. Problem two: if a person high on marijuana drives through without being noticed, no charge is placed, even though it is dangerous for them to drive.

This is one example of a gray-area problem that comes with marijuana. How can we protect people in the first example from being wrongly accused? How can we better detect intoxication for situations like problem two?

A major concern for employees who want to be on medical marijuana is potential issues with company rules. Currently in Colorado, despite the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana, companies have the ability to deny work to employees who test positive for marijuana. Why? Because state laws cannot override federal laws.

In spite of the fact that 46 states permit medical marijuana, federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, labeling it as a highly addictive substance with no medical value. Not only that, the federal government places marijuana in a higher class than cocaine or methamphetamine, implying that those drugs are less dangerous than marijuana.
So how are states regulating this conflict between employees who use marijuana and companies who do not approve? In recent trends, it seems that the court is leaning in favor of employees’ use of medical marijuana.

In Massachusetts, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of an employee who was fired due to her usage of medical marijuana, stating that the employer failed to accommodate the employee, which went against their state’s Fair Employment Practices.
How does this apply to Oklahoma? It’s hard to tell to tell completely. However, certain types of business have already indicated their disapproval of medical marijuana. Even in Oklahoma, where the numbers of application for medical marijuana continues to rise, most banks are unwilling to work with them in fear of federal laws, specifically drug-trafficking laws.
It is time for laws to change. With medical marijuana laws coming into place, Tulsans need laws regarding employee rights to accommodation. These laws need to be established along with further discussion and education for companies to deal with these recent changes. There needs to be increased discussion on how to apply drug testing with drugs like marijuana that stay in one’s system for extended periods of time.

Legal marijuana is proven to increase state revenues. In addition, it will open up new opportunities for employment and reduce marijuana-related crime, all of which this state desperately needs. However, unless these legal gray areas are sorted, growth may prove to be slower than expected.

Post Author: Corina Tampubolon