Legislation would provide protection for cannabis-using employees



SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (NEWS3) – A new piece of legislation would ban companies from refusing to fire workers who test positive for cannabis.

While cannabis is legal in Illinois, some workers are not protected by law. 

Proposed House Bill 4116 would not allow employers to refuse to hire someone who has THC in their system, as identified by a drug test, as long as it does not affect their work performance. 

Illinois law states that residents age 21 and older are allowed to purchase up to 5 grams of cannabis concentrate. Illinois visitors are permitted to possess half that amount. 

Mark Denzler, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, said that while cannabis is legal in Illinois, it’s important for businesses to still enforce drug policies.

“Manufacturers, first and foremost, are concerned about the safety of their employees, their consumers and their customers,” Denzler said. “Particularly in the manufacturing field, you need to make sure that the people that are operating equipment or machinery are not impaired.” 

The same comparison could be made with alcohol. While legal, it is unsafe for employees to work while under the influence. 

“The big difference between the two (alcohol and cannabis) is testing,” Denzler said. “Alcohol stays in your system for a relatively short period of time, whereas cannabis can stay in your body for a longer period of time. I think the testing is catching up to the law.” 

The bill would still allow employers to enforce  pre-employment drug testing, zero-tolerance drug testing policies or a drug-free workplace policy. Although adverse actions made by an employer against an employee who tests positive for cannabis may not be made unless the amount exceeds legal limits. 

When cannabis was legalized for recreational use in 2019, the city of Macomb was ahead of the curve. Macomb Mayor Michael Inman said that specific drug testing policies have been in place since the drug was legalized. 

“Many of our policies were amended almost two years ago,” Inman said. “There is some tolerance for the medical and recreational use of cannabis.”

Although cannabis is state legalized, Macomb still enforces policies similar to those of other legal substances.

“It’s just like alcohol,” Inman said. “Our employees are not allowed to bring alcohol or other controlled substances, including cannabis, even though it’s legal to possess, they are not allowed to bring it into the workplace.” 

The bill has passed the House and is currently in the Assignments Committee in the Senate. 



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