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Medical marijuana and its impact on Ohio workers' comp

With the upcoming implementation of medical marijuana in Ohio, you and your commercial clients may be wondering what impact, if any, this change will have on the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and its programs? BWC recently put together a fact sheet with information to help you understand the impact that this change will have on Ohio workers’ comp.

What does Ohio's medical marijuana law say?

In 2016, the Ohio General Assembly set up the framework to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio, effective Sept. 8, 2018.

It was approved for certain medical conditions, including pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, PTSD, and traumatic brain injuries.

At this time, the only legal forms of medical marijuana will be edibles, oils, patches, plant material and tinctures. Vaporization is permitted. It cannot be smoked or combusted. Home growth is prohibited.

The Ohio Department of Commerce is tasked with regulating the licensure of medical marijuana cultivators and processors, as well as the laboratories that test medical marijuana. The state of Ohio Board of Pharmacy will license retail dispensaries and register patients and their caregivers.

Additionally, the State Medical Board of Ohio will regulate physicians’ requirements and procedures for applying for and maintaining certificates to recommend medical marijuana and maintain the list of conditions for which medical marijuana can be recommended.

What is the impact on the new law on the Ohio BWC?

The impact of the new law on BWC and its programs is limited.

It does not adversely affect the Drug-free Safety Program, will not require BWC to pay for patient access to marijuana, and expressly states that an employee whose injury was the result of being intoxicated or under the influence of marijuana is not eligible for workers’ compensation.


  1. Nothing in the law requires an employer to accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana.

  2. The law does NOT prohibit an employer from refusing to hire, discharging, or taking an adverse employment action because of a person’s use of medical marijuana.

  3. The law specifies that marijuana is covered under “rebuttable presumption.” In general, this means that an employee whose injury was the result of being intoxicated or under the influence of marijuana is not eligible for workers’ compensation. This is the case regardless of whether the marijuana use is recommended by a physician.

  4. While the law does not specifically address reimbursement for medical marijuana recommended for injured workers, Ohio law already has rules and statutes in place that limit what medications are reimbursable by BWC.

    • Administrative code provides that drugs covered by BWC are limited to those that are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Marijuana has not been approved by the FDA and remains a Schedule I illegal drug under federal law.

    • BWC-funded prescriptions must be dispensed by a registered pharmacist from an enrolled provider. Medical marijuana will be dispensed from retail marijuana dispensaries, not from enrolled pharmacies.

    • BWC only reimburses drugs that are on its pharmaceutical formulary, which is a complete list of medications approved for reimbursement by BWC. Drugs not on the list are not eligible for reimbursement, and under BWC’s current rules, it cannot be included in the formulary, nor is it otherwise eligible for reimbursement.

What can employers do?

If you have not done so already, the best way employers can protect their workers and themselves is to establish a drug-free workplace, or, if they already have one, to review and update it if necessary.

This is important because certain sections of the new law reference the use of medical marijuana in violation of an employer’s drug-free workplace policy, zero-tolerance policy or other formal program or policy regulating the use of medical marijuana.

For what this means to your specific workplace, consult your human resources or legal department.

View BWC fact sheet

Motorists Insurance Group launches commercial insurance company

Motorists Insurance Group, a platinum-level company partner, has launched its new commercial lines company – Motorists Insurance –  in Michigan and Tennessee.

The company features state-of-the-art technology to make the process from quoting to issuance and policy servicing simple and streamlined via Guidewire InsuranceSuite™, which Motorists Insurance Group purchased in 2014.

The suite includes underwriting, claims management, billing, rating and policy administration. Motorists also purchased Guidewire portals to improve its agency and policyholder interactions.

WC Issue Hurts Businesses, Independent Agent Provides Lead Testimony on Fix

Earlier this week, Ohio Insurance Agents Association (OIA) member Jim Klingensmith, CIC of L. Calvin Jones & Co. in Canfield made the trip to Columbus to educate legislators on the Senate Insurance Committee about a problem in Ohio’s workers’ compensation system that unfairly punishes employers.

Currently, commercial auto accidents that result in workers' comp claims are charged to an employer’s experience rating, even if claims are likely to be subrogated. This leads to the employer no longer being eligible for group rating and/or paying much higher WC premiums. While this issue is not widespread, it can have severe consequences for impacted employers.

Klingensmith provided the lead testimony in support of Ohio House Bill 207, which is sponsored by OIA member Rep. Mike Henne (R-Clayton) and Rep. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon). The bill would allow Ohio employers to request that auto-related workers' comp claims be charged to BWC's surplus fund instead of charging them to the employer's experience in the event that the claims are likely to be subrogated. In simpler terms, HB 207 will correct an inequity in current law that punishes an employer in a situation that may be no fault of their own. 

In addition to OIA, the Ohio Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce testified in support.


Last December, the Ohio House of Representatives voted unanimously to support this legislation.

Prior to passing the House, several positive changes were made to the bill including expanding it to apply to “motor vehicle” claims rather than just “auto” claims. This change broadens the scope of the bill to ensure the subrogation process has a more expansive application and benefit for Ohio employers.

Other changes were made to strengthen the legislation so BWC can quickly provide an objective evaluation regarding the ability to subrogate an injured worker's claim and ensure that there are sufficient funds to subrogate.

Prior to the legislation passing the House, OIA members Mike Heister, CIC of Heister Insurance in Cincinnati and Tom Lucci, CPCU, ARM of National Risk Management Services Inc. in Chagrin Falls also provided the leading testimony in the House Insurance Committee on this critical legislation.

Next Steps

HB 207 will likely receive one more hearing in the Senate Insurance Committee and then will be put up for a vote to move on to the full Senate for consideration.