At the Augusta Civic Center last November, regular folks from across the state gathered under a tent to compare marijuana buds and inhale marijuana through vaporizers during a medical marijuana trade show. In homes across the state, cancer patients and individuals with other debilitating medical conditions use medical marijuana regularly and in compliance with state law. Most of these folks have jobs, and as their numbers grow, issues related to their use of medical marijuana are showing up in the workplace.
Maine’s Medical Use of Marijuana Act decriminalizes the use of marijuana for certain medical purposes. Under MUMA, qualifying patients may use, and their caregivers may cultivate, medical marijuana in conformity with state requirements. A qualifying patient is one who has been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition, such as cancer or glaucoma, or an otherwise chronic or debilitating medical condition that produces long-term pain, severe nausea or other similar symptoms. MUMA provides certain express employment protections for qualifying patients and caregivers, while also supporting an employer’s right to a drug-free workplace. Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services oversees the program, but neither DHHS nor the Department of Labor has provided any additional guidance for employers wrestling with its practical impacts.
Employers must rely on common sense interpretations of the law, as well as the few rules set forth in the statute:
- Employers cannot terminate or take adverse action against employees simply because of their status as qualifying patients or caregivers. However, employers operating under federal contracts, grants or certain regulatory requirements