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Can you be denied workers' compensation for medical marijuana?

In Illinois, the passing of the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program has left some employees confused about how the Compassionate Use Act and the Workers' Compensation Act relate. Here are some answers to frequent questions.

-- Can you still be required to take a drug test for marijuana after an accident?

Yes. Your employer can still enforce drug-testing policies, the same as always, as long as the policies are enforced without bias.

-- Can you be prohibited from using medical marijuana on the job?

Yes. In fact, the Compassionate Use Act allows employers to ban the use of medical marijuana on private property. Furthermore, it protects employers from any cause of action if they take disciplinary measures against you in the good faith belief that you used marijuana on company property or were impaired due to marijuana use while on the job.

-- Can your employer simply make an assumption that you are impaired due to marijuana use?

Yes. If you're employer knows you are on medical marijuana, he or she can consider you impaired based on any observations about your behavior. Anything from a slowed performance to "unusual behavior" as you go about your duties could give rise to a presumption of impairment. Any on-the-job accident that results in serious damage, disruption or injuries can also lead to the assumption that you are impaired.

-- Can you be fired after a work accident due to the presence of marijuana in your system or an employer's assumption that you're impaired?

Yes. The Compassionate Use Act does not provide you with protection against termination if you are found to have the active compounds of marijuana in your system immediately after an accident. According to the Workers' Compensation Act, if you refuse to submit to a drug screening, there is a presumption that you are intoxicated through drugs or alcohol and that intoxication is the proximate cause of the accident.

-- Does the presence of marijuana in your system after an accident mean you can't collect workers' compensation benefits?

No. Both Acts allow you the right to rebut the presumption that your marijuana use was impairing you or that it was the proximate cause of a workplace accident.

While that can be difficult to do, it is by no means impossible, although you would be wise to find an attorney to help you through the process.

Source: Employment (820 ILCS 305/) Workers' Compensation Act, "Illinois General Assembly," accessed Feb. 01, 2017

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