Recently, the New Jersey Appellate Division made a ruling that may affect employees who are using medicinal marijuana for valid health reasons. A former employee of a company had lost his job after informing them about his legal medical marijuana use. He took them to court but did not win the case. Since then, however, there have been some new developments.
In this case, an employee claimed that he was fired for using medical marijuana outside of his workplace. This worker was being treated for cancer and had been prescribed the marijuana for pain by a health provider in accordance with the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. The issue arose in 2016 when the plaintiff driving his car for work and was hit by another vehicle that had run a stop sign, requiring him to go to the hospital. The company told the employee that he would need a blood test before he could return to work.
The plaintiff informed the employer about his medical marijuana use, and his company responded with a termination letter. It said that he should have told them about the marijuana, since it could hamper his ability to perform his work. He then sued, declaring that he was being discriminated against in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).
More About the Lawsuit
The suit was dismissed after a lower court judge decided that the Compassionate Use Act does not protect employment for medical marijuana users. In addition, the plaintiff had submitted a positive drug test, and marijuana use violated the employer’s drug use policies.
The Appellate Division reversed this in March, based on several reasons. They felt that there are other employment laws (including the NJLAD) that can offer the plaintiff protection. Also, employers have a duty not to discriminate against workers based on a disability such as cancer. The plaintiff’s complaint was reinstated, and he will be working to prove a case of disability discrimination.
What the Future May Hold…
Companies can still control what occurs in their workplaces, and they have the right to promote healthy, safe working environments for all employees. The issue of employee use of medical marijuana is still a gray area, although decisions such as this may protect workers that find its use beneficial for pain management and other therapies.
Recreational marijuana use is also a hot issue in New Jersey, as lawmakers grapple with the legalization bill. Although it does not have enough support to pass yet, its possible passage could lead to major cultural shifts in the Garden State. Some suggest that passing this bill would help medical marijuana users as well. They argue that medicines are too costly, and that dispensaries in the area have shortages. Although this law was not approved this time, it is likely to return soon.