Illinois Employers: Get Ready for Legalized Recreational Marijuana




On January 1, 2020, the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21+ will be legal in Illinois, and now is the time to learn the facts and develop a strategy for your organization.

Here’s what to consider:

What’s the law?

Effective January 1, 2020, marijuana will now be legal for recreational use for those 21 years of age and older. Eligible Illinois residents will be able to purchase up to 30 grams of marijuana plant material legally.

The details:

The law specifically states that organizations cannot discriminate against job applicants or employees for their off-duty use of a lawful product. Also included in the new law is the ability for nonviolent offenders of marijuana use to have their records expunged if they had less than a certain amount of marijuana on them.

What organizations can do:

One way to combat marijuana use in the workplace is to adjust any workplace policies to institute a zero-tolerance policy. This way, employers can still legally terminate someone for using marijuana at work since there is a documented policy in place that employees agree to.

Observe signs and document suspected marijuana use. Employers shouldn't just be looking at on-the-job use, they also need to be aware of employees consuming marijuana 24 hours from their scheduled shift, so it’s crucial to document any signs an employee may still be impaired from using marijuana outside of work hours. Documentation will be key for employers in staying compliant with the new law as they will need to provide evidence that an employee was using marijuana during work hours or had come to work impaired. Document any conversations or warnings with employees, signs of marijuana use such as a difference in attitude, lack of coordination or concentration, or change in job performance.

What organizations can’t do:

Employers can’t eliminate a job candidate from consideration for an open position because of a positive drug test result. Drug tests used to be a fairly routine part of the job application process, but under this new law results of drug tests cannot be used to decide whether to hire someone or not.

Employers cannot terminate an employee for marijuana use without allowing the employee a reasonable opportunity to contest. This part of the law is unique to Illinois, but essentially, employers have to let an employee contest their termination if it was due to marijuana use and present evidence they were not using.


The new legislature is more than 600 pages long and like most employment laws, this one contains exceptions, which your organization may fall under. One key exception from the law includes organizations that receive federal grant money or work on government contracts. Since marijuana is still an illegal substance at a federal level, organizations that work on federal projects or receive federal funding must treat marijuana as an illegal substance, even if they are located in Illinois. It’s important to reiterate this to employees as they may be unaware of this distinction.



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