Yesterday, Zach, Rachel and I joined Oami in Augusta to speak to our lawmakers about three important bills that will likely be voted on this week.
The first is LD 1669: An Act to Standardize and Simplify the Process for Employers to Provide a Drug-free Workplace. LD 1669 would force employers to adopt a government drug testing policy and replaces key provisions of current laws around workplace drug testing.
The ACLU has huge concerns about workplace drug testing and the threat it poses to the civil liberties of employees and job applicants. Workplace drug tests raise significant privacy concerns, as well as undermining "innocent until proven guilty" by treating all employees as suspects even when there is no compelling evidence. It then places the burden on them to prove their innocence.
If passed, 1669 would lower this threshold in Maine, gutting the probable cause standard and further infringing on the civil liberties of Maine workers. Under 1669, an employer could force an employee to submit to a drug test for a “single work-related accident,” but fails to define what this means - allowing an employer to drug test an employee for almost no reason at all at any time.
Furthermore, it removes all employer input in the creating of a drug testing policy. In Maine, we are lucky to have a diverse business community. However, this bill would force all Maine employers to adopt the same Department of Labor model policy, regardless of whether it is the best policy for their business and suits their specific needs.
Lastly, 1669 would eliminate Employee Assistance Programs that help employees get the treatment they need to stop abusing drugs. Given Maine’s rising drug abuse problem, now is not the time to be eliminating treatment possibilities.
LD 1669 would severely infringe on employees' privacy rights, be bad for local Maine business and set up additional barriers for those seeking treatment. We are calling on our legislators to reject LD 1669 and vote Ought Not to Pass this week.
Next, is LD 1811: “ An Act to Appropriate and Allocate Funds to Strengthen the State’s Efforts to Investigate, Prosecute and Punish Persons Committing Drug Crimes” which will likely be voted on this week. The ACLU of Maine is urging the Legislature to reject this bill. This bill would fund 10 new Maine Drug Enforcement agents as well as two prosecutors and two judges. It is a compromise of the Governor’s original proposal that would hire 14 MDEA agents, four prosecutors and 4 judges. While the amended version allocates $750,000 to drug treatment programs, it ultimately fails to shift the War on Drugs paradigm, with two-thirds of new resource still focused on law enforcement.
In her testimony to the legislature Oami stated:
“ With the benefit of 40 years of hindsight, we know that harsh criminal penalties and heavy enforcement does noting to curb drug use or overdose death. Putting dealers in prison does not reduce demand, and putting users in prison does not cure addiction. We cannot keep trying same approach and expect different results.”
To read Oami’s full testimony please click here.
This proposal is not only out of step with the growing national consensus on the need for drug law reform but also just a poor use of our scarce taxpayer resources. Funneling more money into waging the failed War on Drugs is not the answer. It’s time for a more thoughtful, health-centered approach that prioritizes investment in diversion and treatment programs.
Lastly, it is likely that this week the legislature will take up LD 1686: An Act to Address Preventable Deaths Due to Drug Overdose. This bill would expand the availability of the opioid-antagonist Naloxone (also known as Narcan). Naloxone is a simple, cost effective means to save dozens of Maine lives each year. Maine has one of the highest rates of opioid addiction among youth and young people and a rapidly increasing heroin problem. Increased access to naloxone for those most at risk of overdose will ensure that fewer lives are lost in this tragic manner. Simply put, LD will save lives. We are encouraging all our lawmakers to vote for this bill.
17 states already have naloxone legislation on the books, and 7 more considering it this year. Even the current Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske has praised programs the increase access to naloxone and recommended that it be more widely available throughout the country.
In Maine, LD 1686 has broad support ranging from advocacy organizations to law enforcement and from faith communities to medical professionals. Today, the Portland Press Herald published an excellent op-ed written by Jeffrey S. Bark M.D., president of the Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians, and Guy Raymond, M.D., president of the Maine Medical Association endorsing and urging the passage of LD 1686.
All three of these bills have huge potential implications for the rights and liberties of Mainers. The ACLU of Maine will be in Augusta this week talking to our legislators about these bills, however we need your voice as well. Take action today. To find you legislator’s contact information please click here. Tell you legislator to protect the privacy rights of Mainer workers and reject LD 1669. Tell your lawmaker to end the failed War on Drugs and to reject LD 1811. Lastly call on your legislator to support LD 1686 and take steps to end preventable deaths due to opioid overdoses.