Marijuana in your system? Why you could still get the new job

Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 7:14 PM CDT
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(25 News) - It’s now three years since Illinois legalized recreational marijuana, and April 20 is a big day for some to celebrate that fact. But the effects of the law don’t extend to everything, including the workplace. Some lawmakers want to change that, based on the risks it could pose to safety.

Since Illinois residents made their first legal marijuana purchases in January 2020, dispensaries say business keeps getting better, with customers taking time to learn about the industry.

Ashley Johnson, the General Manager of NuEra dispensary in East Peoria, says she’s glad to see that the negative stigma surrounding marijuana use dropping, and the positive impacts come to the forefront.

“I think that education is a big part of it,” she says. “Understanding what the benefits are of cannabis, how it can benefit you physically, mentally.”

But legalization doesn’t extend to every aspect of life. Some residents risk losing their jobs if they test positive for cannabis during the job application process, despite it being legal in the state.

A house bill known as the ‘Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act’ aims to change that for new hires. If the bill passes, it would mean a positive test for THC (the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis) would not be grounds to reject an application. Right now, the bill is tabled until the fall veto session after failing to pass out of the state senate.

For some, it could mean more chances for a job, especially for those who rely on marijuana for medical purposes.

“A lot of people, that’s their medication, that’s how they medicate,” says Johnson. “So to take away their medicine, or not be able to take their medicine to be able to obtain a job, I think that’s very, very rough.”

There’s also some strong arguments against the bill.

“If someone is using marijuana for medicinal purposes, there are other places for them to work,” says Republican Sen. Sue Rezin, who’s voiced opposition during deliberations.

Rezin says some industries are worried about the effects the passage of a bill like this could cause. That includes those in industry jobs that require work with heavy equipment or machinery. But there’s also frustration with testing. Lawmakers say they’re concerned there are limited ways to test workers on the job site if an issue arises.

“You want this industry to have a zero tolerance law because any potential mistake could be catastrophic,” Rezin says.

The Senate will decide what, if any, action to take during the upcoming fall veto session. If the bill isn’t called, it will die entirely.

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