Last month the Maine Supreme Court struck a blow against medical marijuana users and the marijuana industry in Maine. In the case, a worker who sustained a work-related injury received a prescription for marijuana to treat his pain. Maine’s Workers Compensation Board ordered the employer to cover the cost of the marijuana but the Maine Supreme Court reversed that decision because, according to the Court, it conflicted with federal law. Two Justices on the Court dissented from the decision.
The Court reasoned that if the employer was forced to pay for its employee’s medical marijuana, it would violate federal laws that still classify marijuana as a dangerous controlled substance. Those laws prohibit anyone from “aiding and abetting” someone in possessing or selling marijuana. The Court determined that if the employer paid for its employee’s marijuana, it would aid and abet the employee’s violation of federal law and, thus, violate the law itself. In circumstances such as this, the Court held, federal law preempts state law and state law cannot be enforced against the employer.
The Court expressly stated that it was not deciding whether Maine’s marijuana law was entirely invalid. The Court noted that courts in other states have held that state law protections for marijuana consumers who choose to buy marijuana are not preempted by federal law. The Court, thus, left the issue of the validity of these consumer protections for another day.