July 15, 2019

Illinois Joins the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana Use Trend – PART I

July 15, 2019

Illinois passed a new law making the possession and use of marijuana legal for individuals over the age of 21. This law will take effect on January 1, 2020. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act is broad in scope, and addresses growth, sale and distribution, driving under the influence, limitations, immunities, discrimination, criminal justice reform, financial assistance, taxes, and potential issues for employers.

Marijuana legalization raises issues regarding rights of employers and employees, drug testing, medical marijuana, and injuries while under the influence of marijuana.  While we will cover the potential issues that may arise for employers with legalization of marijuana in Parts II and III of this series, employers should be mindful of the following:

  • Employers retain the right to address the use and possession of marijuana as it pertains to employment duties and work premises in the form of nondiscriminatory drug policies. For example, the law specifically allows employers to maintain a “zero tolerance” policy for marijuana in the workplace;
  • Drug testing is permitted and should be applied through the corresponding company drug policies to address various instances and incidents including post-injury testing while maintaining compliance with OSHA standards;
  • The law does not alter or diminish any of the provisions in Illinois’ medical marijuana law, such as patient discrimination and ability to prescribe marijuana. Whether treatment with medical marijuana could be considered medically necessary from a workers’ compensation perspective now that recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois may require a new analysis;
  • The law provides an impairment presumption for under the influence of marijuana based on the amount of THC in the body which can be used to assess potential intoxication defenses under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

While marijuana remains illegal under federal law and in many other states, trends suggest marijuana legalization shall progress in more and more states.   Be on the lookout for our Part II and Part III alerts on recreational marijuana legalization, where we will discuss the employer related issues in more detail.  If you have any questions on this law and the potential impact on your business, please contact any attorney at Wiedner and McAuliffe by email or phone at 312-855-1105.