According to a ruling by the New Jersey appeals court on March 27, 2019, state workers cannot be fired if they fail a drug test because they are medical marijuana patients. Unless a patient is under the influence at work, they are protected by the state Law Against Discrimination.
The State Department of Health says approximately 45,000 patients are currently registered to the state program. Every month, about 2,000 new patients join.
Before the appellate court ruling, employers could terminate employees who use cannabis for medicinal purposes since the substance is illegal under federal law—despite the fact medical marijuana is legal under state law.
The court decision was based on a discrimination lawsuit by 41-year-old Justin Wild, who is diagnosed with cancer. In 2016, he was fired from his job as a director at the Feeney Funeral Home in Ridgewood after testing positive for pot in a drug test.
Wild suffered an injury in an accident that was not his fault and claimed he was not under the influence when the incident occurred. However, he failed to inform his employer about his enrollment in the medical marijuana program prior to the accident.
Wild filed a discrimination lawsuit, but the Superior Court ruled against him. The judge said that the 2010 state law that created the program fails to make accommodations for employees.
However, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination states that employers must accommodate people with disabilities like Wild, an appeal court judge wrote. Additionally, the court wrote that Wild didn’t seek such accommodation to use medical marijuana in the workplace, only during off-work hours or offsite.
Feeney Funeral Home and Carriage Funeral Services—the parent company—filed for an appeal on April 15, requesting the case be heard in the state Supreme Court. If the court doesn’t review the appeals court’s decision or accepts the previous ruling, then medical marijuana patients will enjoy a new workplace protection.
If you have been arrested for a marijuana-related crime in Bergen County, contact Brickfield & Donahue today and schedule a free consultation.