On August 1, 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, a four-year pilot program legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Illinois is the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana. 

The law, which will go into effect January 1, 2014, allows registered users to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every 14 days from a state licensed dispensary. The Department of Public Health will issue identification cards to all registered users, including qualifying patients and designated caregivers.

The controlled amount of medical marijuana can be purchased and used by patients suffering from one of thirty-three serious conditions, including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. The patient must have an ongoing relationship with the doctor who prescribes the marijuana. Registered users cannot grow their own marijuana, nor will they be allowed to possess or use marijuana in vehicles, on school grounds, or in public places.       

Impact on the Workplace

The Act contains specific provisions regarding the workplace that attempt to balance the interests of employers and employees. For example, although employers may not penalize employees for their status as patients who are qualified and registered to purchase medical marijuana, employers nevertheless retain significant rights under the Act. Employers may restrict or prohibit such individuals from using marijuana at work and may implement a drug-free workplace policy, provided the policy is enforced in a nondiscriminatory manner. Employers may also adopt reasonable policies concerning the consumption, storage, or timekeeping requirements for registered users. 

Practical Tips for Employers

Employers should know the Act’s implications on day-to-day business operations, including the hiring process. Although the law allows an employer to prohibit the use of medical marijuana on its premises, registered users who test positive on a drug test may not necessarily be disciplined in the same manner as those who are not registered users. An employer also cannot discriminate against an applicant who tests positive on a pre-employment drug screen if the applicant is a registered user. An employer may, however, discipline or refuse to hire a registered user for failing a drug test if the employer risks losing a federal contract or funding.

Note: This article was published in the August 26, 2013 issue of the Illinois eAuthority.

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