Maine: Marijuana Dispensary Applicant Was Not Protected by Medical Marijuana Act

By Susan R. Heylman Mar 28, 2013
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An employee who applied for a license to operate a medical marijuana dispensary and then was discharged did not have a claim against her employer under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act, the Maine Supreme Court ruled. The act provides certain protections to a person for authorized conduct involving the medical use of marijuana, the court said, but “applying for a dispensary license does not, in any fashion, involve the medical use of marijuana.”

The employee was a case manager for the Family Treatment Drug Court at the Lewiston District Court. She was terminated after she applied for a license to operate a registered medical marijuana dispensary. She argued that her employer violated the act by firing her because her application for a license was “authorized conduct” within the meaning of the act.

The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of her complaint.

The court reviewed the statute’s language describing the categories of persons whose conduct may be authorized for protection under the act: 1) a qualified patient, who may be authorized to possess and cultivate a certain amount of prepared marijuana or mature plants; 2) a primary caregiver or hospice provider, who has been designated by the qualifying patient, may be authorized to possess, cultivate, and provide marijuana to the patient; 3) physicians, who may be authorized to provide a written certification that the patient requires marijuana for medical purposes; 4) persons who may be authorized to provide marijuana paraphernalia for the qualifying patient’s medical use and to be present when the patient uses the marijuana; and 5) qualifying patients from another state who may be authorized to possess prepared marijuana with certain documentation.

As an applicant for a license to operate a dispensary, the employee did not show that she belonged in any of these categories, the court said. Moreover, the law identifies only registered dispensaries as additional conduct that is authorized and nowhere describes authorized conduct as including applications for a dispensary license. “The conduct of applying for a dispensary license to operate a registered dispensary, although contemplated and required by the Act in order to operate a registered dispensary, is not otherwise illegal and therefore does not require special protection,” it concluded.

The court further noted that the act did not create a private right of action against private employers but, rather, protected against arrest, prosecution or disciplinary action by governmental regulatory entities or a business or occupational or professional licensing board.

Savage v. Maine Pretrial Services, Inc., Maine, No. 12-147 (Jan. 17, 2013).

Susan R. Heylman, J.D., is a freelance legal writer and editor based in the Washington, D.C., area.

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