Maine was not the first state to legalize cannabis, but it does have the best legalization model in some ways.
Voters in Maine approved a cannabis legalization initiative in 2016, putting Maine on the legalization list which also includes Massachusetts, Nevada, California, Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, Washington State, and Washington D.C.
The possession limit with Maine’s model is 2.5 ounces of any form of cannabis, which combined with Maine’s cultivation limits (6 mature plants, 12 immature plants), makes the model very favorable.
Unfortunately, Maine still does not have a regulated adult-use cannabis sales framework in place, however, Maine does have one distinction that puts it in a category all of its own – workplace cannabis use protections.
Maine’s off-the-job cannabis use protections are the first in the nation
When you are a cannabis consumer one of the biggest fears that you have to live with is the fear of losing your job due to a failed drug test.
Employees and prospective employees should be measured based off of their skills, experience, and moral character rather than how many THC metabolites they have in their system.
However, unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Many people in almost all industries, from entry-level employees to management, are subjected to the inhumane act of drug testing and having their worth determined by the results of the tests.
Maine recently enacted protections for adult cannabis consumers. The specific language reads:
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
The provision was part of the original language of the successful initiative but did not take effect until recently. As you can see, it also provides protection against discrimination by colleges and landlords.
Other states could follow Maine’s lead
Multiple states are pushing for similar protections for off-the-job cannabis use and not just states where cannabis is legal for adult use.
On February 15th Wisconsin Representative David Bown (D-Milwaukee) introduced a bill that if passed would prohibit employers from testing for THC and prevent them from disqualifying people for jobs solely because they have THC in their system.
Colorado has also seen a similar measure introduced in its legislature. Colorado’s bill has a better chance of passing given that Colorado is much more progressive on cannabis policy compared to Wisconsin.
But just because Colorado has legalized cannabis does not mean that the bill is guaranteed to pass.
The same goes for a bill that was introduced in California that would provide some protection against cannabis use discrimination in the workplace.
A similar bill was introduced in Oregon last year and died in committee. Hopefully, Oregon and other legal states pursue protections for workers who happen to decide to make the safer choice when not at work.
Maine’s new law is not without its limitations
Maine’s newly enacted law is not without its limitations, not the least of which is the fact that Maine’s legislature could decide to reverse the protections via new legislation.
The current protections were part of the initiative’s initial language, and because the legislature failed to extend a moratorium on the provision it took effect. It’s possible that it could be reversed in the future.
Another limitation is that the protections do not apply to jobs that are directly regulated by the federal government such as commercial vehicle drivers.
The newly enacted provision is almost guaranteed to result in litigation at some point, with an employee pointing to state law and the employer pointing to federal law.
How that will play out is anyone’s guess, as is whether or not the United States Supreme Court would agree to hear such a case if/when it is appealed to that level.
Still, despite the protections’ limitations, it’s still incredibly significant and inspiring to see any types of protections enacted at all. It’s a historic event that should be celebrated by cannabis advocates everywhere.
Push for similar reforms where you live
No one should have to live in fear because they choose to consume cannabis responsibly.
Responsible consumers should not have to endure the ongoing threat of losing a job, losing housing, or getting kicked out of college solely because they have cannabis in their system.
Push for reforms similar to what Maine recently enacted in your state. Contact your lawmakers and share the news out of Maine with them so that they can see that what you are proposing is already being done somewhere else and the sky did not fall.
No issues have been reported because of Maine’s new law, nor do I expect there to be other than a legal challenge by an employer that wants to cling to outdated political views or drug testing companies who want to protect their bottom line.
Whether you live in a legal state or not, this is an issue that affects all cannabis consumers, so step up and do your part to protect yourself as well as others that choose to make the safer choice!