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New Maine marijuana law prohibits employment discrimination but that protection is complicated

Maine’s new marijuana law, which recently went into effect and permits some recreational marijuana use, contains a provision that prohibits employers from discriminating against workers who are 21 years old or older because they use marijuana outside of work. At the same time, the law specifically permits employers to prohibit marijuana use at work and to prohibit employees from working under the influence of marijuana.

Some employers that require employees and/or applicants to undergo drug tests as a condition of employment will have to adjust to this new law. Workers who use marijuana should also make an effort to educate themselves about the new law. There are going to be conflicts between some federal laws—such as U.S. Department of Transportation regulations—and this new Maine law because it is still a violation of federal law for anyone to use marijuana. Hopefully, the Maine and U.S. Departments of Labor will develop resources that will further help employers and workers to navigate these conflicts between state and federal law.

If you believe that your employer is violating Maine’s new marijuana law and you advise it as such, you may be protected from retaliation under Maine’s Whistleblower Protection Act. However, before you approach your employer about its non-compliance with Maine’s new marijuana law, it is a good idea for you to speak with an experienced employment lawyer. A lawyer can give you advice on how to best protect yourself from retaliation in case your employer does not take kindly to your attempt to help it comply with Maine’s new law.

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