NSC Statement on Legalization of Recreational Marijuana in Illinois

Public needs to be aware of the impact cannabis use can have on road and workplace safety.

June 25, 2019

Itasca, Ill. – With Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signing of IL House Bill 1438, Illinois has become the 11th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. In 2014, Illinois legalized marijuana for medical use. Thirty-four states and Washington, D.C., now have legalized medical or recreational marijuana, meaning a majority of Americans live in a state with some form of legal use.

Safety shouldn’t be an afterthought during decriminalization discussions. With research and data collection, safety needs to be an integral part of the decriminalization and legalization process. As the legislation has passed, the Council supports the simultaneous passage of updated laws restricting marijuana-impaired driving and marijuana impairment in the workplace.

In the absence of new laws around marijuana-impaired driving and marijuana use at work, NSC encourages the public to be aware of the impact cannabis use can have on road and workplace safety:

  • Marijuana use, like alcohol and opioid painkillers, can impact judgement, reflexes and cognitive dexterity, increasing the risk of injury both behind the wheel and in the workplace.
  • The effects of cannabis can vary greatly and may happen quickly or slowly over time, depending on how it was consumed and an individual’s body composition. It is difficult to determine how long impairment will last because THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, is stored in body fat, unlike alcohol, which is stored in the blood.
  • States with legal recreational or medical marijuana are reporting an increase in fatal motor vehicle crashes involving THC. This underscores the importance of educating drivers about marijuana impairment and advocating for more research.
  • Regardless of legality, employers can set and enforce policies regarding marijuana impairment and possession at work. While carrying small amounts of recreational marijuana in public may be legal, employers are not obligated to allow it in the workplace, even if the employee does not intend to use the substance during work hours.

A recent NSC survey shows widespread public support for laws prohibiting marijuana-impaired driving and workplace impairment. Seventy-four percent of NSC survey respondents said that cannabis is impairing and should not be used while driving. Personal safety and the safety of loved ones due to marijuana impairment on the roads (72%) is also a top concern.

When it comes to marijuana use at work, 61% of respondents cited impairment as a safety concern, and a majority (55%) said employers should test for the drug, even if it is legal to use recreationally.

On June 25 and 26, the National Safety Council is hosting a symposium with world-renowned experts that will focus on how cannabis is changing our country’s safety conversations. As a result of this symposium, the Council anticipates policy and procedure recommendations for both lawmakers and employers.

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact.

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