On January 1, 2014, it became legal for patients with diseases or conditions currently specified by the Act to use marijuana for medical purposes. Under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, these patients must be registered with the Illinois Department of Public Health and may purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from a licensed dispensary. Employers may not discriminate against individuals based on their status as a registered patient under the Act.
But don’t worry. As an employer you still have the right to enforce your Drug-Free Workplace policy. The law allows for employers to have these policies in place especially if it would cause the employer to violate federal law or lose a federal contract or funding. Therefore, the policy may prohibit employees from using marijuana at the workplace, or be under the influence of the drug at the workplace. The policy must apply to everyone and be nondiscriminatory in its enforcement. However, if a licensed user of medical marijuana should fail a pre-employment or random drug test, they should be treated differently than a non-licensed individual. What does that mean? This is still out for debate while Illinois lawmakers work out the kinks. More than likely it means that standard discipline or hiring practices should be reviewed and applied more leniently to licensed individuals.
We would urge all employers to review their Drug-Free policies and ensure that they are being enforced equally among all employees and candidates for employment. For more information or assistance in reviewing or preparing a Drug-Free Workplace Policy, please contact our office.
Written by and © : Kerry Rieder-McLaughlin, HR Consultant