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Maine’s Recreational Marijuana Law: What Nonprofit Employers Need to Know

by Guest Blogger
Reprinted with permission from The Maine Nonprofit Law E-Bulletin March 2017, by Robert H. Levin, Attorney-at-Law with the Law Office of Robert H. Levin.

Maine’s new recreational marijuana law is now in effect, although retail sales will not be permitted until February 2018. The law was passed by voters in the November 2016 election, then tweaked by the Maine Legislature in January. In general, the law allows adults (21 and over) to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and to use it in private settings.

What does the new law mean for Maine’s nonprofit employers?

I’ve already received an inquiry from one client, and I’m sure many others are curious.  Indeed, there are some particular issues that require careful consideration, as the law impacts employers’ hiring, misconduct, workplace safety and substance testing policies.

The law includes a little-noticed provision that prohibits any Maine employer (nonprofit or otherwise) from discriminating against an age-21-or-over employee or prospective employee for using marijuana outside of the employer’s property. However, an employer may prohibit employees from using, possessing, or being under the influence of marijuana at work. That said, some employers are concerned because, unlike with alcohol, there is no objective test available to determine when one is under the influence of marijuana. In any event, the Maine Legislature delayed the effective date of these employment-related provisions until February 1, 2018, giving employers additional time to amend their policies and practices.

Most, if not all, employee handbooks contain prohibitions against the use of illegal drugs, in the workplace, and many go even further by prohibiting illegal drug use outside of the workplace. Furthermore, many employers require drug testing for all or certain employees. Thus, most handbooks and policies will require changes to comply with the new law, even though possessing and using marijuana remains a federal crime. Furthermore, conversations with employees about any policy changes are always a prudent step, as there remain many misconceptions about the new law. See here for an overview of Maine’s substance abuse testing laws.

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