There’s a lot we don’t know about Maine’s new Medical Marijuana law and we won’t know until the state and or the courts provide guidance. At the same time, employees are being issued registry identification cards which afford them certain rights and protections. So what should employers do today to protect their workplace and workforce?
What We Know:
- Under federal law, possessions and use of marijuana is still illegal.
- Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations still supersede state law. Federal mandated drug testing rules still apply.
- Maine state law protects users (those with a registry identification card) from state law prosecution. Not sure if it affords protection under federal law, though many assume the Feds won’t step in. Time will tell.
- Employers who are federal contractors are excluded from the law.
- Medical marijuana law does not permit a person to perform any task while under the influence of the drug, when doing so would constitute negligence.
- The law does not permit someone to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.
- Individuals who do not have a debilitating medical condition (and a registry identification card) cannot legally use marijuana.
- A qualifying patient, with a registry identification card, cannot be denied any rights or privileges and is protected against any disciplinary action for medical use—unless it puts the employer in violation of federal contracts or funding.
- The law does not require an employer to accommodate the use at work or allow an employee to work under the influence.
What Employers Should Do:
- If you have a Maine approved drug testing policy, consider amending it to exclude medical marijuana.
- Employers with safety-sensitive jobs should treat medical marijuana in the same manner that you would deal with other medications that would impair an employee’s ability to work.
- If an employee tests positive for medical marijuana under a DOT mandated test, continue to follow the DOT procedures. It is not clear whether it would be appropriate to require rehabilitation or discharge. Consult with legal counsel.
Many questions remain and unfortunately few answers are being provided. The legislature and in all likelihood the courts will be providing us clearer direction. Updates will be periodically posted on this blog, so continue to check back.