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Illinois Proposal to Bar Employers from Firing Workers Over Pot Use Advances

On Thursday, the legislation was passed by the Illinois House of Representatives and received in the Illinois Senate on the next day. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats.

Under the proposal, “an employer may not refuse to hire an individual or discipline an employee because results of an individual’s drug test indicate the presence of THC on the part of that individual,” nor may the employer fire or impose a discipline against an employee for such conduct. 

It does, however, permit an employer “to enforce a pre-employment drug testing policy, zero-tolerance drug testing policy, random drug testing policy, or a drug-free workplace policy or disciplining an employee for violating such policy, but provides than an employer may not take adverse action against an employee solely because of a positive drug test for cannabis unless the test result exceeds limits set forth in certain DUI provisions of the Illinois Vehicle Code.”

Moreover, the bill establishes “conditions under which an employer may discipline an employee for impairment,” and provides “that there is not a cause of action for any person against an employer for disciplining or terminating the employment of an individual when enforcing a compliant policy.”

According to local television station WGEM, the bill “does not exclude teachers, although schools have to follow zero-tolerance policies due to federal agreements.”

If the bill were to become law, it would serve as an important addendum to the state’s recreational cannabis program. In 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that legalized cannabis for adult 21-year-olds. J.B. Pritzker enacted a bill. 

The law established a cannabis market that is controlled. It also attempted to correct previous convictions made during prohibition. Pritzker has pardoned thousands convicted of cannabis offenses.

“We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis,” Pritzker said in 2020. “We are restoring rights to tens of thousands of Illinoisans. Our goal is to bring safety and regulation to an unsafe and dangerous market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core.”

In recreational cannabis sales last year, $1,379.088,278.61 was earned by the state. That’s more than twice what it generated in its first year of 2020.

However, Illinois employees continue to be at risk for being fired because of a legal matter. 

“If we’re going to legalize the substance, you should talk about individual liberties and what people want to do on their weekends. We should allow people to make good choices and not be discriminated against in the workplace because of those choices as long as it’s not affecting the workplace,” said Democratic State House Rep. Bob Morgan, one of the sponsors of the bill, as quoted by WGEM.

The station reported that Morgan argues “people with trace amounts of cannabis in their system should not be at risk of losing their job unless they fall into one of those specific categories,” and that Illinois “should treat cannabis the same as it treats alcohol and other legal substances.”

However, some Illinois Republican legislators objected.

“You may not be able to tell if someone is impaired or not until that accident happens or there’s a problem at the workplace,” said GOP state House Rep. Dan Ugaste, as quoted by WGEM. “I think we’re overstepping a little too quickly just to make certain someone can enjoy themselves on the weekend.”