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Legalized Marijuana – What HR Needs to Know

February 12, 2020 - minute read

Illinois employers have experienced a flood of new laws and employee-centered changes over the past 12 months. In particular, Illinois’ official legalization of recreational cannabis, effective January 1, has brought a number of HR concerns and workforce management complications to the forefront of employers’ minds. As only the 11th state to legalize cannabis use by adults, Illinois’ pathway may help other U.S. states establish effective ways for managing the subsequent, employment-related hurtles – like on-the-job safety, effective employee handbook policies, and consequences for violations.

If you’re an Illinois employer, or operate in a state that is taking similar steps towards legalization, exploring Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act can help your business achieve an incident-free transition into this new era of evolving substance laws. Here are the highlights of Illinois’ 2020 marijuana laws and how to manage for the best possible efficiency and compliance.

Overview of Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act

Following Illinois’ legalization of medical marijuana in 2014, The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act now allows for the non-medical, recreational use of cannabis by all adults age 21 and older. While it remains an unlawful, controlled substance under federal law, each Illinois employer must determine its own independent philosophy for dealing with marijuana in the workplace under protection of state law.

Here are some of the key points to take away for employers managing an hourly workforce. The Cannabis Act allows employers to:

  • Maintain reasonable drug policies which prohibit employees from showing up to work impaired or under the influence of marijuana;
  • Conduct applicant and employee drug testing, provided it is reasonable and nondiscriminatory;
  • Bar all use or possession of cannabis on company property, worksites, and company vehicles;
  • Discipline employees or withdraw job offers for violations of reasonable and nondiscriminatory workplace drug policies, including failing a drug test (Note: a “reasonable” workplace drug policy is neither defined nor described in the Cannabis Act);
  • Take action based on reasonable suspicion (the observation of specific, articulable symptoms of the employee’s impairment) so long as employees are allowed a reasonable opportunity to contest the employer’s determination;

In addition, the law dictates that employers who are subject to federal contracts have additional drug-free workplace policies. Employees may also have the private right to take action under the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act if any employment actions are taken in violation of the requirements of the Cannabis Act.

How to Comply with the Cannabis Act

While most employers will inevitably put their own spin on implementing handbook policies – there are some steps which have become somewhat standardized for achieving compliance. For instance, your business will benefit from:

  • Ensuring substance use, abuse, and drug testing policies accurately reflect the company’s position on drug testing for cannabis and resulting actions for violations
  • Identifying criteria for drug-testing levels and inhibited functions for each of your employees’ positions as it relates to cannabis violations to prevent concern over false allegations, retaliation, etc.
  • Reviewing and updating your drug testing and substance abuse policies, human resources protocols, and compliance procedures carefully with specialized counsel to verify full compliance
  • Acquiring instructions from drug testing vendors to ensure a smooth integration of outsourced resources with your internal policies
  • Training supervisors on reasonable suspicion, following prescribed processes for resolving violations, prioritizing safety compliance, and dictating the rules to the other members of your workforce

HR Expertise on Demand: Available through EPAY

When it comes to navigating turbulent compliance waters, especially around policies which conflict with federal law, it helps to have a team of HR experts on your side. With EPAY’s HR Consulting Services, cannabis-related policy updates are a whole lot easier. Whether it be a phone call clarifying a question, a long-term project rewriting your employee handbook, or even creating an effective training module for substance-related policies and safety through our Learning Management System, our HR experts have your back.

And don’t forget to join our upcoming webinar “Legalized Marijuana and HR: The Law, Your Handbook, and Everything In Between” where we’ll dive even deeper into the newest legislation and what you should be doing to comply with state and federal laws.

Want to learn more about EPAY Systems? request a demo today!

Filed Under: Compliance HR News Workforce Management Cannabis