Maine Makes History By Protecting Employees From Pot Discrimination

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Maine Makes History By Protecting Employees From Pot Discrimination

By Victoria Kim 02/13/18

A new anti-discrimination provision went into effect at the start of the month.

Image: 
hand with marijuana leaf

Maine has become the first state to protect people who use cannabis from getting penalized by employers for what they do outside of work.

This was reported by Littler Mendelson, a global law firm for labor and employment, in a Jan. 30 press release. According to the statement, Maine employers may no longer discriminate against employees or new applicants for using cannabis while they are not at work.

The Litter attorneys cite the Maine Department of Labor, which they report has removed cannabis from the list of substances that new applicants can be screened for.

Using cannabis or being “under the influence” while at work is still prohibited and can lead to disciplinary action, but as a representative for the labor department said, a positive test result for cannabis alone does not prove use or intoxication at work.

These rules come as provisions of Question 1, the law that legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older that Mainers passed in November 2016 by a narrow margin. According to the Littler statement, the anti-discrimination provision of the legalization law went into effect on Feb. 1.

However, Maine’s legalization law still has a few hurdles to overcome before its cannabis retail market is up and running. The law was supposed to take effect on January 30, 2017, but state lawmakers including Governor Paul LePage have pushed to delay implementation of the retail market.

The state legislature’s House Minority Leader Ken Fredette explained the delay in October. “I’m not saying we’re not going to do this, but we need to slow it down and do it right,” he said, according to the Portland Press Herald. “You can’t just plop a bill this big down and say pass it right now or we’ll have chaos. That is not how you make laws here in Maine.”

Aside from wanting to establish a solid foundation for the regulation of Maine’s retail market for cannabis, the lawmakers cited additional concerns they’d like to address before proceeding, such as social clubs and impaired driving.

Meanwhile, in California, another state where voters decided to legalize cannabis for adult use in 2016, legislation is being considered in the state legislature that would follow Maine’s example—to a degree. AB 2069, introduced by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, would protect medical cannabis patients from employment discrimination.

According to NORML, 11 other states have established laws that protect medical cannabis patients from employment discrimination.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr. Email: victoria.kim@thefix.com.

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