How workers and employers are navigating legal cannabis in Illinois – Herald & Review


A line waits to purchase recreational cannabis early on Wednesday at Sunnyside on 1704 S. Neil St. C, in Champaign. Only 35 medical cannabis stores statewide have been authorized to open for recreational sales.


CHICAGO — Now that recreational pot is legal in Illinois, marijuana enthusiasts may feel like it’s finally time to emerge from hiding.

But people with jobs — or looking for them — might want to stay in the shadows for now as companies figure out how to handle employees who partake.

In Illinois, employers are allowed to fire workers who bring cannabis to the office, show up impaired or fail random drug tests, according to the state’s new law legalizing recreational marijuana use, which was amended in December to clarify employers’ rights. Companies also are able to reject job applicants who don’t pass drug screens.

But employers that take action against their workers still could face a haze of legal questions, such as whether their policies are reasonable or whether employees were actually impaired, which can be difficult to prove given there’s no way to test for impairment.

“It really has left almost every Illinois employer in somewhat of a quandary about what they can and should be doing in terms of drug testing, and what they can and should be doing with a positive marijuana result,” said Julie Stahr, a partner in labor and employment law at Schiff Hardin in Chicago.

The law states that employers may subject employees and job applicants to “reasonable drug and alcohol testing,” which can include pre-employment testing and random testing. And an employer may discipline employees, fire them or withdraw a job

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