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Governor Quinn faces medical marijuana decision

Illinois lawmakers, as our Chicago readers have likely heard, recently approved legislation legalizing medical marijuana. Under the legislation, patients may be prescribed a limited amount of marijuana from a state-operated dispensary. The legislation recognizes certain illnesses for which marijuana can be prescribed.

Governor Pat Quinn has yet to sign the legislation, and there are apparently serious questions remaining on the issue of how employers will deal with hiring and firing based on drug testing and how hospitals, nursing homes and hospices will handle the use of a substance that is still illegal at the federal level.

Opponents and supporters have taken up their usual arguments with respects to the legislation—supporters saying the drug offers powerful pain relief without side effects associated with prescription medications; and opponents saying legalizing medical marijuana will open up the door to increased drug use.

Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, believes that concerns about how the legislation would affect employers are unfounded. Any potential impact would be minimal, he says, since employers will still be able to determine their own rules. Others, however, say that there could be issues with wrongful termination and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The legislation itself says that companies would not be able to discriminate against employees merely because they are registered to use medical marijuana. An employer would be able to discipline a worker who fails a drug test if not doing so would cause the employer to violate federal law or lose a federal contract. Employers may also discipline workers that showed up to work impaired, provided the employer has a reasonable opportunity to contest the determination.

Governor Quinn has not said whether he will sign the legislation. If he chooses to do so, it would make Illinois the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana. 

Source: bnd.com, “Medical marijuana raises questions for businesses,” June 10, 2013. 

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