In January of 2020, Illinois became the latest state to legalize recreational cannabis. The question for physicians is now ‘may I use cannabis without fear of being fired from my job?’ The quick answer is, of course, it depends. The longer answer is: it depends on where you work and when you’re using it.
First, employers can stop you from possessing and using cannabis at work. They still have the ability to discipline you for the possession of cannabis on company property and will be able to test you for the drug under reasonable suspicion. The problem is that cannabis can remain in your system for weeks, and there is no current test to determine if you are impaired.
Second, Illinois has a nondiscrimination law that bars employers from discriminating against employees for legal activities done outside of work hours. We assume that because cannabis is legal that employers cannot prevent you from using it outside of work, but if some is impaired when reporting to work, how would an employer test for it?
The biggest hurdle for healthcare workers is federal funding issues. If you work at a location that receives federal funding, the employer can establish a zero-tolerance policy for the use of cannabis for the simple fact that possession is still illegal at the federal level and your employer risks losing funding if employees don’t bar the use of or test for the use of cannabis.
The risk/reward is up to the physician who wants to test the system. Common wisdom is that these issues will be ironed out over the next few years as more and more states pass legalization laws. If you use cannabis as a physician, it could impair your judgment at work and lead to negligence. All of this can ultimately lead to a complaint being filed against your license at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. If a problem does arise, Williams & Nickl is here to help you get through that process and back on the right track. Our firm focuses on professional license defense to ensure the Medical Board does not trample your rights, and you have a chance to move on from your past issue.