Maine becomes first state to protect marijuana use outside of work

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Author

Valerie Bolden-Barrett

Published

Feb. 1, 2018

Dive Brief:
  • Beginning today, employers in Maine are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on their marijuana or marijuana byproduct use outside of work, attorneys at Littler Mendelson report. Maine’s Labor Department also removed the drug from the list of substances for which employers may test applicants.
  • The law prohibits employers from disciplining or refusing to hire workers age 21 or older based on their off-site marijuana use. Employers are still free to prohibit its use and possession in the workplace and can discipline employees who are under the influence of marijuana in the workplace. According to Littler, a spokesperson for the state labor department says that a positive test result won’t be enough to prove that an employee was under the influence.
  • Littler says Maine’s law doesn’t affect compliance with federally mandated testing for marijuana, like that required by U.S. Department of Transportation regulations.
Dive Insight:

Some other states, like California, have legalized recreational marijuana use, but until now, none prevented employers from enforcing anti-drug policies or refusing to hire candidates who test positive for the drug. With the recent influx of employee-friendly state and local laws, however, employers may see other states and cities adopt laws similar to Maine’s.

And while the Maine law’s provisions certainly raise some compliance and enforcement questions, employers remain free to prohibit drug use at work. HR managers at affected employers, however, may want to update their organization’s handbook or other drug policies to reflect the changes.

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