Harris Dowell Fisher & Young, L.C
636-532-0300 636-532-0300

Illinois Doctors can now prescribe medical marijuana instead of opioids – Even for Work Injuries

ILLINOIS Workers Compensation Update

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 336 into law Aug. 28, 2018, a measure that significantly expands Illinois’ medical marijuana program by enabling patients to access medical marijuana in place of pharmaceutical opioid medications.   You can read the entire bill HERE.

Effective immediately, physicians will have the authority to offer medical marijuana as an alternative to any patient holding – or qualified to hold – prescriptions for painkillers, such as Vicodin or Oxycontin. The previous requirements for background checks and fingerprint collection have been eliminated. You can read more details about the specifics of law here: 

While the newly-enacted law does not specifically address medical care provided to injured workers through the Illinois Workers Compensation Act, there is nothing within this bill that would prohibit its application to medical care provided to injured workers.


Under section 8(a) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/8(a) (West 1998)), an employer is required to provide or pay for “all the necessary first aid, medical and surgical services, and all necessary medical, surgical and hospital services thereafter incurred, limited, however, to that which is reasonably required to cure or relieve from the effects of the accidental injury.” Westin Hotel, 372 Ill. App. 3d at 546 (2007)

As such, if an Employer would want to challenge a treating doctor’s decision to prescribe medical marijuana, the Employer would be required to either: 1) pay for it, or 2) produce medical evidence that the script is not “reasonably required to cure or relieve” the effects of the work injury.


Under the current Illinois Medical Marijuana law, employers CAN discipline and even terminate the employment of workers who test positive for marijuana so long as the employers have a drug-free workplace policy.  This is the case even if doctors eventually prescribe medical marijuana.

Employers with no drug use policy won’t have any recourse against employees who are using medical marijuana for pain.

Employers WITH a drug use policy can still terminate those who test positive.  Having said that, the current IL medical marijuana law will expire in 2020 and given the current political winds in Illinois, I can almost guarantee that any new medical marijuana law AFTER 2020 will NOT allow employers to terminate for drug use if the marijuana was prescribed by a doctor.

I don’t expect doctors to suddenly start writing scripts for medical marijuana this month, but it will happen eventually and I want you to be aware of this as soon as possible. If you have any questions on how this might apply to any specific circumstances, please feel free to call or email.