The state’s Supreme Court ruled that firing medical marijuana patients for using weed is a discriminatory and unlawful act.
Progressive attitudes around marijuana legalization haven’t completely translated to businesses embracing employees consuming the plant outside work hours. Around 50% of hiring managers at companies with more than 100 employees said a failed marijuana drug test would automatically disqualify an applicant from getting hired, according to a recent survey.
A new ruling from the New Jersey Supreme Court will reverse that trend, at least when it comes to medical patients. So long as employees don’t show up under the influence, New Jersey businesses cannot fire medical patients for failing a marijuana drug test.
The case focused on funeral director Justin Wild, a registered medical marijuana patient immediately fired after testing positive for THC, but the ruling defines protections for more than 70,000 New Jersey patients.
“This protects hundreds, if not thousands of employees [who have faced the] stigma of marijuana,” said Wild’s lawyer, Jamison Mark.
According to prior court filings, Justin Wild was director at Feeney Funeral Home for two year before he was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors prescribed him medical marijuana under New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act in 2015 to deal with the pain. A year later, Wild was involved in car crash where he was determined not to be at fault. Still, his company made him take a drug test which he subsequently failed, later causing his dismissal.
Wild sued his company, citing the state’s Law Against Discrimination, saying he’d been unlawfully terminated. While his case was initially dismissed by a Superior Court Judge, an appellate judge later ruled in his favor. The Supreme Court sided with the appellate court’s ruling.
“It would be ironic indeed if the Compassionate Use Act limited the Law Against Discrimination to permit an employer’s termination of a cancer patient’s employment by discriminating without compassion,” the appellate court wrote a year ago.
New Jersey voters will determine whether to fully legalize marijuana in the state this election, following failed attempts to do so through legislative means. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who vows to legalize cannabis in New York this year, believes the tri-state area should coordinate its efforts in marijuana reform. Until then, marijuana patients have legal protections in place from unlawful determination as a result of taking their medicine.
“The big takeaway here is employers must reasonably accommodate individuals who are legal users of marijuana in the state of New Jersey, just as they would have to reasonably accommodate an employee taking any prescription medication,” employment lawyer Maxine Neuhauser told NorthJersey.com. “If the individual’s ability to perform the job is not impacted by their use of medical marijuana, then you can’t just fire them for a positive drug test.”