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Illinois House bill could block employers from firing workers who use marijuana products

Rep. Bob Morgan (D-Deerfield) talks about his proposal to add workplace protections for...
Rep. Bob Morgan (D-Deerfield) talks about his proposal to add workplace protections for employees using cannabis products.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 3:06 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - People in Illinois can currently lose their job if they test positive for cannabis, even though the drug is legal in the state. A House Democrat hopes to pass a plan this week to add protections for workers who use legal products during their free time.

Illinois legalized adult-use marijuana in 2019, but some feel lawmakers forgot to address workplace policy for cannabis consumers.

Rep. Bob Morgan (D-Deerfield) says his legislation could help employees who use medical or recreational marijuana who may take drug tests and possibly jeopardize their jobs. The bill could prohibit employers from firing or disciplining employees or not hiring applicants who use any form of cannabis.

However, there are exemptions for safety-sensitive positions included in the bill language. Those positions include jobs where someone would carry a gun, perform emergency services, work around heavy machinery, or handle hazardous materials. It also exempts people who are impaired or intoxicated at the workplace and anyone who may be at risk of losing a federal contract.

“If we’re going to legalize the substance, you should talk about individual liberties and what people want to do on their weekends,” Morgan said Wednesday. “We should allow people to make good choices and not be discriminated against in the workplace because of those choices as long as it’s not affecting the workplace.”

Morgan said people with trace amounts of cannabis in their system should not be at risk of losing their job unless they fall into one of those specific categories. He argues Illinois should treat cannabis the same as it treats alcohol and other legal substances.

However, House Republicans on the Labor & Commerce Committee strongly opposed the plan.

“You may not be able to tell if someone is impaired or not until that accident happens or there’s a problem at the workplace,” said Rep. Dan Ugaste (R-St. Charles). “I think we’re overstepping a little too quickly just to make certain someone can enjoy themselves on the weekend.”

The proposal does not exclude teachers, although schools have to follow zero-tolerance policies due to federal agreements.

Morgan has consistently worked with leaders from the business community to improve his proposal. The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association is neutral on the bill. However, IMA Government Affairs Director Donovan Griffith explained negotiations have come a long way over the past year.

“We don’t believe that the bill is perfect. I think we are going to continue to work on the safety-sensitive position in the Senate,” Griffith said. “But, to that point, Rep. Morgan has been working with the business community tirelessly. I believe all of the amendments he has made up to this point, which are three, have been done at the request of the business community.”

House Bill 4116 passed out of the Labor & Commerce Committee on a partisan 15-11 vote. It now heads to the House floor for consideration. The third reading deadline for House bills is Friday.

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