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Illustration by Security Management

Illinois Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

If buying marijuana legally is one of your resolutions for the new year, you can now do so in Illinois.

Under a new state law, signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker on 25 June 2019, anyone aged 21 years or older (proven with a valid state ID or driver's license) can purchase recreational marijuana from a licensed store as of 1 January 2020. Marijuana dispensaries opened on New Year's Day, and the new law allows both state residents and out-of-state residents to possess limited quantities of cannabis flower, concentrate, and/or edibles. 

The law, which fullfilled a 2018 campaign promise from Pritzker, also wiped the slate clean for certain drug-based criminal records. The governor issued more than 11,000 pardons on 1 January for low-level marijuana convictions. According to USA Today, both Pritzker and his lieutenant governor, Juliana Stratton, noted that the previous drug laws disproportionately targeted black and brown minorities. 

The Marijuana Policy Project reported that law automatically expunged convictions where someone possessed up to 30 grams of cannabis, while those with larger amounts of up to 500 grams would need to petition individually for clemency. The group determined that approximately 770,000 records would be eligible for pardons in Illinois.

According to CNN, the law also created a social equity program, a grant that would help local groups create and establish prgrams for disadvantaged communities and offer low-interest loans for applicants interested in opening a licensed marijuana business.

Despite the new law, employers in the state can maintain a drug-free workplace or a zero tolerance policy for use of the drug, and landlords and business owners can also choose to implement their own zero tolerance policy. The state also allows local governments to set their own restrictions and zoning rules; according to CBS Chicago, some municipalities will not allow dispensaries to set up shop within their territory.

Illinois became the 11th state in the United States to legalize recreational marijuana, following Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C. Cannabis is still labeled as an illegal substance by the federal government, although several other states are expected to consider legalizing recreational marijuana.

In Security Management's December 2019 issue, Senior Editor Megan Gates found that a declining number of employers were keeping testing for cannabis in their preemployment screening drug tests, and that other employers found an increasing number of their workforce testing positive for marijuana. 

Quest Diagnostics' director of science and technology for employer solutions, Dr. Barry Sample, noted a difference in rates for employees testing positive for marijuana between states that legalized recreational marijuana and states that have not. You can read more about "Understanding Impairment" from marijuana use and what it may mean for your workforce here.