Cannabis in the workplace for Illinois: Employers prepare for January 1

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We’re now just weeks away from recreational marijuana being legal in Illinois, but business owners are still coming to grips with what their employees will be allowed to do. Heartland Community College hosted a workshop Tuesday to work on “Cannabis in the Workplace.”

It’s a topic many business owners are concerned about because they don’t know what to expect.

“Employers continue to have the rights they have under the existing law to have a drug free workplace, to have provisions in place in their businesses that ensure a safe workplace environment,” said State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington).

Barickman says employers will actually be able to make their own workplace marijuana policy rather than a flat decision being forced upon them by the change in law.

“Some employers may not be so aggressive and may say we don’t care what you did 30 years ago and alter their drug testing policies,” said Barickman.

Barckman was one of the negotiators for the cannabis bill that passed out of both chambers last week, cleaning up some gaps in the original legislation. The new plan clarifies employers will be able to keep their zero tolerance policies, but some employers stress concern over the limited examples of workers legally using marijuana in their free time.

“Even the ten states that have gone before us are still wrestling with when it is okay to say you’re impaired. You need to go home according to our procedures and policies,” said Heartland Community College Adjunct Professor Terry Lowe.

A section of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act says an employer may consider a worker is impaired or under the influence if there are specific visible symptoms that lower the employee’s performance.

“I think employers are going to be able to go back and look at their handbooks and their HR procedures and say we at least have this. At the minimum, we can reprint the exact law. The question is still going to be enforcement,” Lowe said.

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