Nurses: Marijuana is still Illegal in Ohio, and a Positive Drug Screen could lead to Discipline

Marijuana for medical or recreational purposes is now legal in some states, such as Colorado and Oregon. However, use of marijuana is still illegal in Ohio. If employed as a nurse, you can be subjected to pre-employment, for cause, or random drug tests. If you test positive for marijuana, you may be terminated from your job and may be subjected to discipline by the Ohio Board of Nursing. Chemicals in marijuana, mainly THC, can show on a urine, blood, saliva or hair follicle drug test after 120 or more days, based on usage and other personal factors. (See Samhsa.gov for guidance on drug testing).

According to RC 4723.28(B)(8), it is a disciplinable offense for a nurse to be self-administering or otherwise taking into the body any dangerous drug, as defined in RC 4729.01, in any way that is not in accordance with a legal, valid prescription issued for that individual, or self-administering or otherwise taking into the body any drug that is a Schedule I controlled substance. (Marijuana is defined as a Schedule I substance.)

Courts have held that an employee is not protected from a wrongful discharge even if they are lawfully taking medical marijuana, and test positive at work. (Coats v. Dish Network). This is because marijuana is unlawful under Federal Law, which the court determined prevails in this situation.

The Ohio Board of Nursing routinely takes disciplinary action against a nurse who tests positive for marijuana, even in cases where the nurse has consumed marijuana in a legal jurisdiction. Therefore, it is important for Ohio nurses to be aware of the risks they take if consuming marijuana, whether it be legally or illegally. Testing positive on a drug screen may result in a disciplinary action against your nursing license.

As always, if you have a question about this post or the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please feel free to contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group LLC at 614-486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

 

Advertisements

How a DUI may affect your Ohio nursing license

Happy New Year!

Over this holiday weekend, I have received calls from several health care professionals who have been charged with a DUI inquiring how or whether a criminal charge may affect their license to practice as a nurse in Ohio.

First, it is important to understand that the Ohio Nursing Board may take a disciplinary action against a nurse for certain criminal convictions, even if the charge does not relate to the practice of nursing. Second, it is important to understand that a DUI is not considered a “minor traffic violation”.  A DUI, even if reduced to a lesser offense, such as disorderly conduct or reckless operation of a vehicle, is still of concern to the Nursing Board and may result in a sanction to the nurse’s professional license.

If you have been charged with a DUI, you should seek competent legal counsel to assist you through the criminal case process.  In certain instances, you may be accepted into a treatment program which, if successfully completed, may result in no criminal conviction or the charges may be reduced to a less serious offense.

A conviction for a DUI or certain other criminal offenses may result in negative consequences for your professional license.  While you are not required to immediately notify the Ohio Nursing Board that you have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, you may need to disclose the criminal matter when you renew your professional license, depending on the matter.  At the time you renew your license, you should consider hiring legal counsel to assist you to accurately respond to the questions on the renewal application and to prepare any documents necessary or required by the renewal application.

The way in which the Ohio Nursing Board handles your criminal case will depend on a variety of factors.  In determining what sanction, if any, that the Ohio Nursing Board might impose, the Ohio Nursing Board will consider factors including but not limited to the following:

  • the seriousness of the matter;
  • whether the matter relates to your professional practice;
  • whether the matter is your first criminal matter; and
  • whether you fully cooperate and complete any requirements of the Court.

Depending on the circumstances of your matter, the Ohio Nursing Board can order the nurse to submit to a chemical dependency assessment to determine if treatment is needed and/or can require the nurse to submit to a period of random drug testing.  Additionally,  the Ohio Nursing Board has the authority to suspend a nurse’s license and/or can place the nurse on probation.

If you need treatment, you should obtain comprehensive treatment. The Ohio Nursing Board does not maintain an approved list of treatment providers.  The nurse may choose any treatment center that will provide them with the treatment needed for their addiction.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group at 614-486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

Although legal in other states, nurses have been disciplined for testing positive for marijuana in Ohio

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form.  Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use.  Some states allow residents to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to even grow up to six plants.  While there have been various marijuana initiatives in Ohio, to-date it is illegal to possess, sell, or cultivate marijuana in Ohio.

Historically, the Ohio Board of Nursing has taken a strong position against marijuana usage.  For example, where a positive test for marijuana in an employment drug screen is reported to the Board, the Board routinely places the nurse on probation for a period of at least one year, which typically includes random drug testing and can include narcotics as well as practice restrictions.

Even if a nurse has traveled outside of Ohio and consumed or smoked marijuana in a State where it is legal, if the nurse returns to Ohio and is reported to the Board for a positive drug screen, the nurse should expect to be subjected to discipline by the Board.

In our practice, we have seen nurses reported to the Board because they failed pre-employment drug tests who were subjected to discipline including at least one year random drug testing.  A nurse does not have to be actively practicing nursing in order be found by the Board to be impaired. By simply testing positive for marijuana, a nurse can be subjected to discipline.  Employers are required by law to report to the Board any suspected violation of the Ohio Nurse Practice Act.

Before you consider using marijuana on your next trip to Colorado or Washington, realize that if you test positive on a drug screen – even weeks later when you return to Ohio – you should anticipate that you will be reported to the Board and subjected to discipline.

As always, if you have any questions about this post of the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group LLC at 614-486-3909.