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Zero Tolerance Policies Under Illinois’ Medical Marijuana Law

Zero Tolerance Policies Under Illinois’ Medical Marijuana Law

This Act was passed in 2013 to allow persons who have been diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions to obtain access to usable cannabis for medical use. Eligible individuals must register with the Illinois Department of Public health to get their identification card, by submitting a written certification from a doctor describing the medical condition.

Provisions Regarding Drug Testing and Zero Tolerance

Section 50 of the Act addresses the use of medical marijuana in the context of employment, specifically employer liability for various policies related to usage of the drug. The Act does not prohibit an Illinois employer from:

  • Implementing reasonable policies regarding the consumption, storage, or timekeeping requirements for qualifying patient-employees;
  • Enforcing policies regarding a drug-free workplace or drug testing, including zero tolerance initiatives – so long as the policy is non-discriminatory;
  • Disciplining an employee, who is a qualifying patient under the medical marijuana registration program, for violating employer drug policies; OR,
  • Disciplining an employee for failing a drug test, even where that worker is a qualifying patient for medical marijuana.

No Disability Discrimination for Reasonable Accommodations

A worker suffers disability discrimination if he or she is treated differently by an employer solely because of a medical condition. Employers who don’t allow reasonable accommodations for the needs of a disabled worker may be in violation of federal law. Under this theory, there’s an argument that enforcing drug and zero tolerance policies (i.e., by not allowing an eligible employee to use marijuana) could be a form of discrimination. However, cannabis is still banned under the federal Controlled Substances Act; requiring employers to fulfill the “reasonable accommodations” factor would run contrary to that law.

A Chicago Discrimination Attorney Has Answers to Your Questions

The key takeaway for Illinois employees and employers is that the laws regarding medical marijuana may not significantly change the workplace environment. Zero tolerance policies will be upheld, unless they are applied in a discriminatory way that impacts those with medical conditions. For employers, it’s important to communicate drug policies so there’s no confusion or reason for employees to claim discrimination. Employees must comply with drug testing measures, but be on the lookout for provisions that raise red flags. If you have questions about the implications of Illinois medical marijuana law, as a worker or employer, please contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline.

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