The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Ill. Prepares for Medical MJ, but Employers Can Still Fire Potheads

The public is showing a growing interest in Illinois' new medical marijuana program, The Associated Press reports.

Though the law already passed under the state's new four-year medical marijuana pilot program, it has not yet been implemented.

Here are three considerations for Illinois employers and employees to keep in mind concerning medical marijuana:

  1. Employers cannot discriminate against workers with medical pot status. The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act provides that employers (as well as schools and landlords) may not discriminate based on a person's registered medical marijuana status, unless they face restrictions under federal law -- remember, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Likewise, businesses cannot be denied state benefits for employing someone who has a medical marijuana license.
  2. Employer's drug tests are permissible. Though the law prohibits discrimination, the law makes an exception for businesses to bar the smoking of marijuana on company grounds. The Act allows employers with drug-free workplace policies to continue to use them and explicitly allows companies to "discipline" employees for failing a drug test.
  3. Impairment matters. For most medical marijuana patients, the question boils down to impairment. The law does not protect employees who are impaired on the job, especially when it concerns workplace safety. According to Bob Morgan, coordinator of the state's medical marijuana program, "these types of situations already occur today, whether it's somebody on Vicodin or another prescription drug that could impair them in the workplace," the AP reports. As time goes on and employers adapt to the new legal landscape, employers will likely develop policies to address these issues.

Though the law's exact implications are still unclear, remember the bottom-line: even when your use of medical marijuana is perfectly legal, your employer can still fire you under certain circumstances.

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