Illinois Becomes 20th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

On August 1, 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, making Illinois the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana. The law provides for a four-year pilot program allowing individuals with certain medical conditions – including cancer and multiple sclerosis – access to medical marijuana, pending approval by their doctors and the Illinois Department of Public Health. The law goes into effect January 1, 2014. The Illinois bill specifically prohibits employers from “penalizing” an individual for “his or her status as a registered qualifying patient.” However, no cause of action will exist against an employer who terminates or disciplines an employee who, based upon the employer’s good faith belief, used or possessed marijuana on the employer’s premises and/or was impaired while working on the employer’s premises. While it is too soon to tell how Illinois courts will interpret these provisions, Illinois employers with drug testing programs should consult with legal counsel to discuss how this provision may affect future testing.

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