New Medical Marijuana Law Creates Confusion for Employers

On January 1, 2014 the legalization of marijuana will finally go into effect in Illinois. The law allows for marijuana to be utilized as a prescription drug for certain health situations. The issue both employers and employees are facing is whether and how employees can be fired for testing positive for marijuana in their system. While under the law an employer cannot discriminate against his or her employees because of their status as medical marijuana patients, it seems that employers may still have the right to fire an employee who tests positive for marijuana. Ultimately, there is still much confusion surrounding the effects the medical marijuana law will have on Illinois business law.

Employer Rights Under the Medical Marijuana LawEmployer Rights Under the Medical Marijuana Law

The medical marijuana law has caused a great amount of confusion for local business owners. Many Illinois business owners wrongly believe that the passing of the law has made it so that they cannot fire a patient for testing positive for marijuana if the employee possesses a medical marijuana license. The actual law though still maintains an employer’s right to enforce zero-tolerance drug policies, drug free workplace policies, and/or drug testing, although all of these policies must be instituted in a nondiscriminatory manner that does not specifically target medical marijuana users. The Illinois law also contains explicit language that maintains the employer’s right to discipline an employee who fails a drug test.

Employee Rights Under the Medical Marijuana Law

The Illinois medical marijuana law allows employers to discipline employees who test positive for the drug in their system. The issue is that marijuana can be detected in the system for weeks longer than other painkillers such as oxycodone, a fact which some find unfairly burdens medical marijuana users. A federal court though has already ruled that a positive drug test for medical marijuana use, like any other illegal drug use, is still a legitimate reason to fire an employee. Employees still have some protections though, as employers are prohibited from discriminating in promotions and hiring because of an employee’s medical marijuana use, unless restricted by federal law. Individually the U.S. Department of Transportation restricts medical marijuana use for a variety of safety-sensitive professions including truck drivers, pilots, and school bus drivers.

While the passing of medical marijuana legislature has created a significant amount of business law issues for local employers, employers can still hold their employees accountable for marijuana use as long as a business’ drug policy does not discriminate against medical marijuana users specifically. Call the business law attorneys here at The Gierach Law Firm in Naperville, Illinois, if you would like to discuss how the new medical marijuana law will affect your business.