HR Management & Compliance

Illinois Employers Need to Be Ready for New Marijuana Law

The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act allowing Illinois residents at least 21 years old to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana flower and five grams of marijuana concentrate for personal use takes effect January 1, 2020, meaning employers need to be ready for recreational use of the drug by their employees.

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The Illinois law contains some of the most extensive protections for employers of any marijuana legalization law in the nation. It provides:

  • Employers may continue to prohibit marijuana possession and use at the workplace. The law says nothing will prohibit an employer from adopting “reasonable zero-tolerance or drug-free workplace policies.”
  • Employers may prohibit employees from being under the influence of marijuana in the workplace while performing job duties and even while “on call” (meaning the employee is scheduled with at least 24 hours’ notice to be on standby).
  • The Act doesn’t limit or prevent employers from disciplining or terminating an employee for violating a workplace drug policy.

How to Recognize Impairment

On the topic of impairment, the law provides Illinois employers with guidance other states’ laws lack. The Act defines when an employer may consider an employee to be impaired or under the influence, specifically if the following conditions are met: (1) The employer has a good-faith belief the employee is manifesting specific, articulable symptoms while working, and (2) the conditions have decreased or lessened the quality of the worker’s performance. The symptoms may include:

  • Speech, physical dexterity, agility, coordination, demeanor, irrational or unusual behavior, or negligence or carelessness in operating equipment or machinery;
  • Disregard for the worker’s safety or that of others, or involvement in any accident that results in serious damage to equipment or property;
  • Disruption of a production or manufacturing process; or
  • Carelessness that results in any injury to the worker or others.

For more information on the Illinois marijuana law, see the August issue of Illinois Employment Law Letter.

Steven L. Brenneman is an attorney with Fox, Swibel, Levin & Carroll, LLP in Chicago. He can be reached at sbrenneman@foxswibel.com.