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Seven fast facts about Illinois’ medical marijuana law and its impact on the workplace:


  1. On January 1, 2014, Illinois became the 20th state in the nation to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.

  2. The law allows patients diagnosed with one of 42 specific, debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, HIV, AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and muscular dystrophy, to use medicinal marijuana.

  3. Qualifying individuals will be issued a Registry Identification Card by the Department of Public Health and are allowed to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every 14 days from a state licensed dispensary.

  4. State medical marijuana laws do not completely legalize the manufacture, distribution and possession of marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law.

  5. A qualifying patient is not permitted to be impaired at work, and an employer who has a good faith belief that a qualifying patient is impaired while working, or has used or possessed cannabis at work, may take disciplinary action.

  6. Illinois law does not permit the use of marijuana in any place of employment. In addition, nothing in the Cannabis Act prohibits an employer from enforcing a policy concerning drug-testing, zero tolerance or a drug-free workplace, and employers may discipline employees for violating a workplace drug policy.

  7. The law prohibits employers from penalizing (or discriminating against) an employee solely for his or her status as a registered, qualifying patient (or caregiver), unless failing to do so would put the employer in violation of federal law. E.g. the employer is a federal contractor.


Clearly medical marijuana laws require employers to balance between two competing interests: the employer’s right and duty to maintain a safe and productive workforce, and the employer’s obligation to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities that may require or allow the use of medicinal marijuana. Employers that would like to avoid being the test case for Illinois’ medical marijuana law should take a close look at their drug and alcohol free workplace programs in light of what substances they will include in their drug testing. Some consideration should be given to if and when accommodations for the use of medical marijuana will be allowed. For employers with federal contracts or otherwise subject to federal regulations requiring a drug-free workplace, policies should be reviewed to make certain their practices need not change under Illinois medical marijuana law.


The Employment Source is knowledgeable in reviewing your employment policies to make certain you do not run afoul of these legislative changes. Illinois employers, and Iowa employers concerned about employing Illinois residents, are encouraged to contact us to review and update their employee handbook. We will advise you on including an explicit statement on your policy on medical marijuana and how you will handle this new law in light of state drug-testing and disability accommodation issues.





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