Maine Marijuana Law Puts Employers, Workers At Odds

More states are loosening their laws for marijuana use. In November 2016, Maine joined in when voters approved a law that legalized recreational marijuana in the state.

On February 1 of this year, retail sales of the drug went into effect in Maine. So what do employers need to know about marijuana use in the state when it comes to hiring?


New Worker Protections

Under the law, the majority of Maine businesses can’t test job applicants for marijuana use. Nor can they fire an employee for a marijuana-positive drug test…unless the employer can also prove either use of the drug or impairment while on the job. That’s because medical marijuana is also legal in the state.

Workers in other states have fewer rights when it comes to marijuana use. In California and Massachusetts – where marijuana use is also legal – the law makes it clear that workers do not have workplace protections when it comes to the drug.

However, while most Maine employers can’t reject job applicants who test positive for marijuana, some businesses still can. Employers can reject candidates for jobs with high safety standards, such as forklift operators.




Some Lawmakers Favor Employers

But some lawmakers aren’t happy with the scope of the new marijuana law and what they perceive to be a lack of employers’ rights. That’s why on January 31 (one day before the marijuana law was set to go into effect), Maine legislators introduced a new bill. The purpose was to allow more drug testing of workers.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Amy Volk, wants to make it easier for employers to drug test workers in several ways. The first is to remove current probable-cause requirements for employers who are looking for evidence of substance-induced impairment. Another is to allow employers to drug test a worker after a single workplace accident (or other evidence of impairment).

The bill also removed the requirement that some companies must also have an “employee assistance program” in place. The purpose of these programs is to help workers access counseling and other resources if they exhibit signs of a substance abuse problem.



Sources: Press Herald (1), Press Herald (2), Wikimedia Commons






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