With recreational cannabis set to become legal in Illinois, employers are debating how to account for an increasingly cloudy regulatory environment. On the one hand, an existing state law bans discrimination against workers that use legal drugs off the job, which would seem to include marijuana under the new law. However, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, including the Drug-Free Workplace Act, which means that employers must make a decision on the issue themselves. The new Illinois law preserves employers’ rights to maintain and enforce drug-free policies, as the bill states that “employee workplace safety shall not be diminished and employer workplace policies shall be interpreted broadly to protect employee safety.” Some employers may retain tight, zero-tolerance regulations, especially those that work with the federal government, while others may change pre-employment drug screenings but require testing if someone is injured on the job. In other states where marijuana is legal, some companies have stopped screening for marijuana altogether, looking to attract and retain employees. However, in Colorado, 96% of employers who used the drug testing company Quest Diagnostics in 2017 still included marijuana in their employee testing, while 91% did so in Nevada. Less obvious questions for Illinois employers include whether they should ban possession of the product in the workplace.
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