Employers Facing Employment Policy Questions as More States Legalize Marijuana

Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois recently signaled his willingness to support the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state of Illinois, and legislators in that state are poised to consider such legislation later this year.

This news has caused employers in Illinois to begin to consider their options in doing business in a state that has legalized marijuana. If they don’t have a drug testing program currently, should they? If they do currently require a drug test be taken by employees that includes a ban on the substance, do they continue to test for marijuana or drop that panel from their screening? In a nation where 10 states have already legalized recreational marijuana, but there remains a federal ban on the substance, it can be difficult to know the way forward.

The state of Illinois does not allow employers from discriminating against employees for using legal substances outside the workplace, but employers still have a right to maintain a drug-free workplace.

Whether an organization bans use of marijuana or not may depend on the organization and the jobs their employees do. For example, any organization that contracts with the federal government would likely still prohibit the use of marijuana. Also, organizations that employ people in safety sensitive positions, such as transportation, construction, and manufacturing are generally required to test for banned substances. The path forward is less clear for organizations not already federally mandated to screen for marijuana.

Which ever path an employer takes, it will be important to formally set out their policies, and continually update them as necessary should laws change. Legalization of medical and recreational marijuana is slowly gaining traction in state legislatures and it is important that employers do not get caught by surprise without having already considered all their options before formalizing them.

Will employers still test for marijuana if recreational use becomes legal in Illinois? Don’t keep a pipe at your desk just yet.

As a background screening provider, IntelliCorp understands how important it is for our clients to effectively screen and on-board new employees. If done correctly, a productive workforce can create tremendous growth for any organization. If done poorly, it can cost not only lost productivity, but the time and money it takes to re-boot a candidate search.

In many instances, drug screening can be an integral part of any background screening process. An effective program can help protect a business from the negative impacts of drug abuse. Other benefits may include:

  • Safety of employees
  • Encourages productivity, health and well-being
  • Reduces risk and liability
  • Lowers healthcare and insurances costs
  • Increases morale

Check out the services offered by IntelliCorp for drug screening.

Learn more about all the products and services offered by IntelliCorp.

IntelliCorp recommends organizations consult attorneys specializing in employment law when reviewing policies and procedures.


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