But it is also a resource for doctors and patients who have chronic diseases and want to avoid opioids.
“My thought is that if you can reduce the use of opioids, if you can start to live your life more, then it is a good drug,” said Dr. Rahul Khare of Innovative Rapid Care.
Some doctors insist that the increase in medical marijuana consumers reflects the growing demand for effective and legal painkillers; Khare said that in the past five years, he has certified medical marijuana for more than 13,000 Illinoisans.
According to the latest statewide data, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder are the top reasons for obtaining a medical marijuana card. The report also pointed out that the number of new patients registered for Illinois cannabis cards in the state increased by more than 30% in 2021, with the largest proportion of new patients between the ages of 31 and 40.
But medical and recreational cannabis consumers face a common dilemma: they may lose their jobs because of the use of legal substances.
“When this legal substance stays in their system for up to 30 days, how do we protect employees who use this legal substance?” Rep. Bob Morgan (D-IL 58) said he was a medical doctor in the state. One of the original makers of the cannabis law. “So, this is not a new topic, but it must be much bigger now because we have more people in Illinois who use the substance legally.”
Some companies continue to implement a zero-tolerance policy for all employees who test positive for marijuana in a drug test, even if they have a medical marijuana card.
“They actually hired me and then fired me,” Cindy Andere said.
The 35-year-old man is a registered nurse and a registered medical marijuana patient. In August, she planned to start a new job at the Silver Cross Surgery Center in New Lenox, but received a letter from them informing her that she had failed the drug screening, which they said was her employment condition.
“They treat me like criminals,” Andre said. “They treated me and made me feel like I was an addict.”
Andere suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disease that causes debilitating chronic pain. She was prescribed medical marijuana for pain relief, and she said she only used it when she was off work.
“To be honest, it gave me a better quality of life than many drugs. Personally, the side effects are minimal. I actually have more energy,” she said.
Andrey has filed a disability discrimination application with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not provide any protection in Illinois because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.
“I told them that I was disabled when I applied, so they didn’t give me any other choices. I think this is something I really need to expose,” Andre said.
In an email, a spokesperson for the Silver Cross Surgery Center stated that they “refused to comment on pending legal matters.”
Andrey’s lawyers said that because the patchwork of marijuana laws and policies has not yet been challenged in state courts, cases like hers are increasing.
“People are very confused,” said employment lawyer David Fish. “People call us, usually their first reaction is that I check marijuana on the Internet is legal, and it says I can’t be fired for using it at work, and then we have to explain that this law is a bit different s things.”
“I think we need to clean it up, it should have been cleaned up long ago. It affects a lot of people,” State Representative Bob Morgan said.
Morgan has passed legislation to challenge Illinois laws, so most workers or job applicants will not be punished if they test positive for low-level marijuana (whether recreational or medical).
“In a sense, this law will change the burden, that is, individuals who pass the drug test alone should not lose their jobs, nor should they be denied the opportunity to work somewhere,” he explained. “Unless you show a defect, you cannot be discriminated against in the workplace.”
The scope of application of state laws may be limited. What is even more confusing is that employment protections for cannabis users may not apply to federal positions and safety-sensitive jobs, such as those in transportation, manufacturing, and healthcare.
Employment experts say that many companies also insist on using traditional drug screening for accountability and safety reasons.
“We have always been a non-toxic and safe working environment,” said Joyce Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Chicago Anchor employee team.
Johnson’s company provides temporary employees for various companies. “A lot of companies just say,’We don’t care if it is a federal law or a state law. This is not our company policy. They must pass drug screening, and they can’t come back with marijuana.” And I think this is what many companies are going through. , Just to make sure it is fair. “
Andre said that her use of medical marijuana at home will not affect her ability to become an excellent nurse at work.
“If you make me a role model for changing policies or changing laws, then I totally agree because I am willing to stand up for the right things,” she said.
However, with the steady increase in the number of certified medical marijuana cardholders in Illinois and the legalization of recreational marijuana, doctors and legislators emphasized the urgent need for companies to reconsider drug testing policies.
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