Medical Marijuana Legalized in Illinois – Employers Beware

Illinois General AssemblyThis morning Illinois became the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana use, though use is allowed only in very limited circumstances as part of a 4-year trial program.  The law includes a number of provisions specifically relating to employment.

  • Employers can’t discriminate against a person solely for being a “registered qualifying patient” or a “registered qualifying caregiver” (unless federal law requires otherwise).
  • Employers could also face liability if they take action against an employee for using medical marijuana off premises and outside of working hours unless the employee was impaired at work.

The law doesn’t prohibit employers from adopting reasonable rules regarding the consumption and storage of medical marijuana, from enforcing drug testing, zero tolerance and drug free workplace policies (provided they are applied in a non-discriminatory manner), or from disciplining a “registered qualifying patient” for violating a workplace drug policy, but employers will need to take extra care in disciplining employees for violation of such policies.  The medical marijuana law takes effect on January 1, 2014.

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