Imagine getting suspended from work for taking cancer medicine. That's the harsh reality that Craig Miller - a patient with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma - is facing after his company discovered that he's been using cannabis to treat his condition.
Miller works for Spartan Light Metal Products in Sparta, Illinois. He says the company has been aware of his medical condition and had initially told him they would be supportive of his recovery, but that hasn't happened.
"I kept hearing the whole time, 'do whatever it takes to get better' and then when I do, they haven't even talked to me," Miller told Fox 2.
Miller received a medical marijuana card last June to help him deal with the chronic pain and loss of appetite associated with his condition. It was only after he began taking cannabis that things felt like they were finally coming around for him.
"I started taking my new medicine, and over the next few weeks I noticed a marked improvement," Miller wrote on his GoFundMe page asking people to help him raise enough money to pay his expenses until he gets back to work. "For the first time in years, things where starting to feel right."
Daniel Katzman - a Belleville-based attorney who is not associated with Miller - says a confusing cluster of Illinois laws have created a situation where employees who test positive for THC can be punished regardless of why they consume cannabis. So many have to choose between their job and their medicine.
"It's a dilemma that nobody should have to deal with: be in pain, or get fired," Katzman said.
Employers would likely argue that such drug-testing is needed to ensure workplace safety, but that rationale still shouldn't apply to patients like Miller, who says he has never consumed cannabis while on the job or immediately before going to work.
Last month Illinois voted to elect the pro-cannabis Democrat J.B. Pritzker to the governor's seat. He says he hopes to bring recreational cannabis to the Prairie State in the New Year. And in reference to cases like Miller's, he should put medical marijuana patient protection on his list of cannabis reforms too.