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Attorneys help weed out medical marijuana, conceal carry laws

Illinois’ new laws permitting medical marijuana use and carrying concealed weapons could pose a variety of challenges for west suburban business operators.

“DuPage County is the third highest county per capita in the state for residents requesting conceal and carry licenses,” said Rita Gitchell, a partner with Chicago-based SmithAmundsen. “Hinsdale had 44 applications a month ago, and there are double digit-requests from surrounding communities. Cook County is still at the bottom.”

Gitchell outlined regulations governing the conceal and carry statute, as well as who’s likely to be carrying a handgun, during a breakfast meeting of five chambers of commerce April 16.

The statute spells out a number of places required to be weapons-free zones, including schools, government offices, hospitals and health facilities, and establishments with more than 50 percent of their revenue through liquor sales, Gitchell explained.

Elsewhere, property owners or tenants in control of a business may post a sign banning guns, and the authority to decide should be specified in the lease, she said.

“It’s your duty to have a safe workplace. So is it safer because of conceal and carry, or does that cause more problems,” she asked.

Gitchell urged business owners to review their insurance policies for liability coverage and to update employee handbooks, spelling out a policy whether employees are allowed to carry guns at work.

In a weapons-free zone, licensed gun owners are allowed to park on the premises, but their weapons must be locked out of sight in a vehicle. Guns must be unloaded and put in a safe container before being locked in a trunk.

Gitchell also said those granted a conceal and carry license have received training and had their backgrounds checked by state police. Mental health and medical professionals are required to inform state officials of someone unsuited to carry a gun, and state police reference that data before granting a license.

“There is no reason to panic if you see the outline of a gun on someone,” she said.

Many of the regulations still are being developed concerning marijuana cultivating centers, dispensaries and patients, said Jonathan Loiterman, a lawyer specializing in health concern with Lowis & Gellen LLP, Chicago.

The state law allows a pilot program, beginning May 1 and expiring Dec. 31, 2017 in a “tightly controlled regulatory environment,” Loiterman said. Further details are expected by September.

Business operators may encounter issues with employees using marijuana for medical reasons, so workplace policy should be clearly spelled out, the attorney advised.

The law permits employers to have a zero tolerance policy to fire employees based on results of field sobriety testing. But workers aren’t required to tell employers they are medical marijuana patients.

For entrepreneurs interested in producing baked goods or other non-smoking products containing marijuana, Loiterman said such endeavors are limited to those who will be licensed to operate one of 22 cultivation centers in the state.

“The tax structure has yet to be finalized, but substantial fees are being considered for producers, distributors and the patients,” he said. “It could be as high as 50 percent.”

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