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Medical Marijuana Use Can Still Lead To Firing At Many Companies

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Medical marijuana might be legal, but you can still lose your job for using it because many companies still have no tolerance policies.

There are more than 40,000 people with medical cannabis cards in Illinois who can buy and use marijuana legally here.

But the state law that allows it does not protect those people from being fired for failing a company drug test because of medical marijuana, even if the effects of a high are long gone.

"And so for each and every one of them now? It's really an issue," said attorney Larry Mishkin.

He sees it firsthand and more and more often.

"I don't think that many people imagined that taking advantage of that medical treatment option would mean losing their jobs," he said.

Kalee Hooghkirk, a patient advocate and wellness clinic owner, is seeing the same thing.

"We've talked to quite a few people over the past couple weeks that are suffering from job loss or concerns with losing their job," she said.

Many find out too late.

"If you are looking into getting your medical cannabis card, do make sure you are having a conversation with your employer first. If you're afraid to have that conversation reach out to advocates like myself. We can reach your HR department on your behalf," Hooghkirk said.

CBS 2 looked into protections in place. The state's Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act prevents emplyers from discriminating against a marijuana patient, but employers can still drug test and maintain zero tolerance and drug free workplace policies.

"It has to be addressed at some point because otherwise we are going to have a constant tension between people who want to exercise their right to use medical marijuana and employers who are telling them, 'If you do that, and we find out about it, that's going to be grounds for termination,'" Hooghkirk said.

Because federally marijuana is still considered an illegal substance these issues aren't going anywhere, even if recreational marijuana is legalized, something Gov. JB Pritzker has publicly supported.

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