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Whether your favor or oppose Illinois legalizing all uses of marijuana, change is coming. Incoming Gov. J.B. Pritzker is in favor of legalization, and is planning to push for it when he takes over.

One thing's for certain — a lot changes when pot is available. Not just with taxes and state income, and not just with any discussion about what it means to us as a society.

We work in a world of drug tests. Mark Kleiman, a marijuana advocate and a professor of public policy at NYU’s Marron Institute, argues in an essay on the website Vox, that there have been too few studies on the effects of drug-testing in the workplace, and that evidence of a link between passing a drug test and being a better worker are tenuous.

But businesses rarely base employee policy on speculation and lack of research. We are at a point where if a competitor is guaranteeing a drug-free workplace, other businesses will aggressively play catch-up to match or exceed the original claim.

The issue now is what federal courts are deciding in cases involving marijuana and the workplace. In September, a federal judge ruled against a Connecticut nursing home that withdrew a job offer after the applicant tested positive for marijuana.

The applicant had told the employer she used medical marijuana to deal with the effects of a car accident. The nursing home said it withdrew the offer because it was worried it could be cut off from federal funding if it employed someone who tested positive for the drug.

The Associated Press reported the Connecticut decision was the first ruling of its kind in a federal case and followed similar recent rulings against employers by state courts in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Some employers, though, have dropped marijuana from the drug tests they require of employees, saying the testing excludes too many potential workers in a challenging hiring environment. How many more would be excluded in the event of full legalization? You can't be rejected for a job for consuming a legal substance, can you? If tests show traces of alcohol and nicotine in a worker's system, well, that could mean nothing more than it's Monday morning.

How many employers will be scrambling to lawyers for indemnification in the event of job accidents and traces of marijuana in employees' systems? Particularly given how, based on the tests we now use, detectable traces of marijuana can remain in the bloodstream for up to three weeks.

We're some time between Pritzker and Illinois Democrats pushing through marijuana legalization and dispensaries popping up the way video gambling places do now. Many decisions have to follow any changes in the law, and it's reasonable to expect barely organized chaos for a while.

We'll just have to understand the workplace is one of things that can potentially be affected in ways we're not even considering at this juncture.


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