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Concealed Carry and Medical Marijuana - How Do These New Illinois Laws Affect Your Business' Policies?

August 2013

By: Ryan M. Helgeson, Esq.

Governor Quinn recently signed two bills into law, one concerning carrying concealed firearms and the other concerning the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. These laws go into effect on January 1, 2014. The passage of these laws raises several questions for business owners with regards to their employee policies. This article will address some of those questions and provide suggestions that Illinois employers may use as a starting point for policy development.

Firearm Concealed Carry Act

The Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act will allow individuals with a valid license issued by the Illinois Department of State Police to carry a concealed handgun. Certain background and training requirements must be met before a license will be issued. There are also several restrictions on where a concealed handgun may be carried. In addition to the expressly listed restricted areas (schools, playgrounds, courthouses, stadiums, etc.), the Concealed Carry Act allows that "the owner of private real property of any type may prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms on the property under his or her control." This means that employers can lawfully prohibit their employees from carrying concealed weapons on the employer's property. To properly comply with the new law, signs stating that the carrying of firearms is prohibited must be clearly and conspicuously posted at the entrance to the building. (Standardized signs for this purpose will be developed by the Department of State Police.)

Further, employers can prohibit concealed weapons in their parking areas, with the exception that license holders may carry a concealed firearm on their person within a vehicle in the employer's parking area and may store a firearm or ammunition in a case within their vehicle in the parking area.

IMPORTANT TIP: If an employer wishes to prohibit concealed firearms on their property, they should 1) post the necessary signage and 2) include a policy in their handbooks which clarifies where employees with a permit are allowed to store their weapons.

Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act

The Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act allows individuals with physician-diagnosed, qualifying "debilitating medical conditions" to lawfully possess and use limited quantities of marijuana for medical purposes. These qualifying individuals must 1) have a physician's written certification for marijuana use, 2) must register with the state, and 3) possess a valid registry identification card. A registered cardholder can possess and use marijuana without being subject to arrest or prosecution under relevant Illinois laws.

Importantly, the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act expressly states that "nothing in this Act shall prevent a private business from restricting or prohibiting the medical use of cannabis on its property." Thus, the new law will NOT affect your business' current drug-free workplace policies.

Moreover, the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act imposes other limitations on marijuana possession and use. For example, civil, criminal and other penalties may be enforced for "undertaking any task under the influence of cannabis, when doing so constitutes negligence, professional malpractice, or professional misconduct," including operating any motor vehicle. Further, this law does not protect individuals from Federal laws prohibiting marijuana possession and use.

Additionally, no one may possess cannabis in a vehicle under the Illinois Vehicle Code unless it is in a secured, reasonably inaccessible container and no one may use cannabis in a motor vehicle or in any "public place." Public place means any place where an individual could reasonably be expected to be observed by others. Thus, use is essentially restricted to private residences and certain medical facilities.

IMPORTANT TIP: It is recommended that employers update their employee handbooks to address the use of medical marijuana, including reference to the new law and clarifying the employer's policy regarding marijuana use.

Conclusion

The new Illinois laws regarding concealed firearms and medical marijuana are drawing headlines and creating confusion. Understanding how these laws may affect your business' employee policies is the first step in proactive human resource management. With the passage of these new laws, it is recommended that employers update their employee handbooks to include the necessary policies to make it clear to employees what the employer's expectations are regarding concealed firearms and medical marijuana. That being said, Illinois courts have not addressed these issues or provided any guidance in these matters for employers. Thus, employers should consult with an experienced employment law attorney prior to making any changes or additions to their employee policies based on these newly enacted laws.

If you have questions regarding these laws or any other employee handbook question, Attorney Ryan Helgeson from Wessels Sherman Joerg Liszka Laverty Seneczko, P.C. is happy to help you. Please contact Ryan at (630) 377-1554 or at ryhelgeson@wesselssherman.com.