Portland Press Herald and AP Articles on Maine’s Marijuana Legalization Law and Employment Incorrect Bookmark and Share

July 25, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 25, 2017
Media Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, (207) 621-5009

Department of Labor issues clarification for employers

AUGUSTA— A Portland Press Herald article published late in the evening of July 24, 2017, inaccurately cited the Maine Department of Labor’s guidance to employers regarding the state’s new marijuana legalization law as related to employment. This article was later corrected, but before that correction was published, the story was picked up by national media and circulated throughout social media, including blogs written by attorneys to provide guidance to clients.

The article was covering the department’s presentation on Monday, July 24, to the Legislature’s Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee on employment issues relating to the legalization of marijuana.

The Department is therefore issuing the following clarification to ensure that employers, their legal counsel and HR consultants understand that they are allowed to screen applicants and employees for marijuana use under existing state law.

The article’s initial title, “Maine employers shouldn't test for marijuana without changes to state law, official says,” has since been changed. The attached image shows the new title with the original title in the URL.

When the Legislature delayed most of the Marijuana Legalization Act from taking effect until February 2018, that delay included Section 2454’s employment-related provisions. Therefore, all businesses can proceed as they have been doing regarding drug testing by following existing law until either Section 2454 goes into effect as currently written or the Legislature repeals or amends Section 2454. Right now, as an at-will state, a Maine employer or employee can end the employment relationship for any reason, and an employer may choose not to hire an applicant with a marijuana-positive drug test without a certification for medical use.

The department has advised employers that if Section 2454 does not change and does go into effect, at that time, employers should not conduct applicant drug screening for marijuana because doing so could violate Section 2454. The department is holding free Impairment Detection Training for Employers courses throughout the state. The next two classes are July 26 in Augusta and August 23 in Portland. Employers may register for the classes here: http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=Safetyworks_Classes&v=ListAll . Space is limited.

To clarify, Title 7 MRS, Chapter 417, 2454 states: “3. School, employer or landlord may not discriminate. A school, employer or landlord may not refuse to enroll or employ or lease to or otherwise penalize a person 21 years of age or older solely for that person's consuming marijuana outside of the school's, employer's or landlord's property.”

Employers or workers with questions about drug testing employees in Maine or impairment in the workplace should contact the department at (207) 623-7900 or visit the department’s website at http://www.maine.gov/labor/laborlaws/substanceabuse_testing/index.html .

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Supporting documents

Screenshot of Article in Portland Press Herald