Dubuque business leaders learn how Illinois marijuana legalization impacts Iowa workplaces

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Dubuque business leaders met on Thursday for a Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce panel to clear up confusion about marijuana in the workplace.

Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce panel on Thursday, January 23, 2020 (JACKIE KENNON/KCRG).

Recreational marijuana is now legal in Illinois. Just across the Mississippi River in Dubuque, it's not. That's putting employers in a difficult position on what's allowed in their workplaces.

One of the main points from Thursday’s panel is that employers need to figure out what their policies are.

“That’s going to be a daunting task for them to decide where to draw the line,” said C.J. May, Dubuque County Attorney.

Lisa Anderson knows what the job search can be like, as the Business Development Representative for Express Employment Professionals.

“We work with area businesses when they need to hire, and we work with job seekers when they need to find employment,” Anderson said.

Recreational marijuana in Iowa is still illegal.

“People think that because it has certain levels of THC or no THC that it's legal. It’s still part of a plant that is regulated in the state of Iowa declared illegal,” said Dubuque Police Chief Mark Dalsing.

What makes things complicated as other states pass legalization bills, is how long it's believed marijuana can stay in the body.

“They can potentially be in your system quite a bit longer, some of the studies say for as long as 30 days,” Dalsing said.

With a low unemployment rate in Dubuque, it can make it even more difficult for employers to find workers.

“In Dubuque, unemployment is right around two percent, which means a very tight labor pool,” Anderson said. “When you put extra parameters in your handbook that says, ‘We are a drug-free work zone, or we drug screen randomly,’ that is going to make that already small pool of candidates even smaller.”

“They have to think about what happens if my employee is under the influence, or previously was under the influence, of a controlled substance, it can be legal substances too like alcohol,” said Dalsing.

There are no changes to marijuana laws in Iowa this legislative session, but some lawmakers are pushing to expand access to CBD for more medical conditions.