Last week, the Illinois House of Representatives approved a bill that would protect workers who use cannabis while off-duty from being terminated. The bill would also prevent employees from discriminating against job seekers who have tested positive for cannabis.
The measure is currently under consideration in the Senate and includes some exemptions. The bill is sponsored by Democratic Representative Bob Morgan, who states that individual liberties should be respected. He spoke to WGEM saying that no one should be discriminated against in the workplace because of their choices as long as those choices do not impact the working environment.
Illinois was the first state in 2019 to legalize marijuana and set up a retail system for adult-use products through legislative action. The state’s sales of recreational cannabis products reached over $1 billion last year.
The amended version of the recent bill was passed by a 61-41 vote. The bill would still allow employees to fire workers who use cannabis while on duty. It also exempts protection to workers whose jobs involve carrying weapons, operating airplanes and big machinery, providing emergency services or performing tasks that require strong adherence to safety standards.
Moreover, anyone contracted by the federal Department of Transportation would be exempted from the bill’s protection. Observers have noted that the bill would only be effective in protecting workers who test positive for low amounts of cannabis since employers can still terminate employees whose test results exceed limits set by the state’s vehicle regulations. The state limits are used to restrict impaired driving.
Drivers in Illinois are considered impaired if their THC concentration in blood is 5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) within two hours of driving. Critics have noted that the limit is too low and that THC levels can remain high for days or weeks in the bloodstream after provable impairment.
Applying a similar limit to workers could generally put them at risk of termination from using cannabis while away from work. For example, a worker can smoke a blunt the night before work and still record high THC concentration levels in their blood despite lacking any indication of impairment.
Similarly, Washington DC authorized a measure that protects job applicants from being subjected to pre-employment drug tests. According to the bill’s sponsor Councilmember Trayon White (D), this move would resolve inequalities by making sure that those who use cannabis for medical or recreational reasons are not penalized.
As more states loosen the restrictions on marijuana and bring an end to the drug’s criminalization, drug tests and other cannabis-related workplace issues are becoming topics of discussion. Amazon ended all cannabis drug tests last year, and the company is looking to restore the employment eligibility of former workers and job applicants who were penalized for having a positive THC test.
As more states take the step taken by Illinois to prevent cannabis consumers from being penalized for off-duty consumption, residents will be more free to buy legally produced products by companies such as Red White & Bloom Brands Inc. (CSE: RWB) (OTCQX: RWBYF) that are made for recreational or medicinal use.
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