Legislators are struggling to sort out new laws regarding recreational use and the workplace.
The Maine Department of Labor has advised most employers in the state not to test job applicants for marijuana use. It is currently illegal for employers to reject applicants who test positive for cannabis, because they may be legally using marijuana for medical reasons. Now that recreational use is legal in the state, employers can no longer fire an employee who tests positive for marijuana use, and must instead prove that they were impaired while at work.
Most other canna-legal states side with employers over employees in cannabis-use cases, and Maine’s labor department is arguing that the balance should shift back to the employers. “Our laws are an outlier,” said Julie Rabinowitz, the labor department’s director of policy, operations and communications.
“If the Legislature does not take action to provide clear, consistent, easy to follow regulations, Maine risks more employers leaving the state. Let’s stop thinking of drug testing as something punitive. Rather, it incentivizes employees, especially those in recovery, to stay clean, and promotes a safer work environment for all workers.”
In 2016, 4.8 percent of all job applicants and employees in Maine failed a drug test, slightly more than the national average of 4.2 percent. Ninety-one percent of Mainers who failed their drug test last year tested positive for cannabis. Out of the 46,000 employers in the state, only around 800 have state-approved drug testing programs.
Employers can still reject applicants for high-safety jobs, like forklift operators, if they test positive for cannabis. Rabinowitz said that an individual in this line of work should not be allowed to use recreational cannabis if unemployed, as it could prevent them from getting hired to a new job. However, medical cannabis use would still be allowed during unemployment.