The New Jersey Supreme Court Provides Certainty to Employment Protections Given to Medicinal Marijuana Users Within the State
Given the ongoing opioid crisis, the use of medicinal marijuana has become a popular and attractive option for the treatment of various medical conditions and the pain that oftentimes accompanies same.
Ever since the enactment of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (“NJCUMMA”) in 2010, questions persisted about how this law would interplay with New Jersey’s employment laws and to those employees who were prescribed the use of medicinal marijuana while also being subject to a given employer’s drug testing policies.
While it would seem logical that an employee would be protected from termination for the prescribed treatment of a disability outside of work under the New Jersey laws permitting certain reasonable accommodations for the treatment of medical conditions, Courts within the State were not so sure and NJCUMMA initially provided no explicit protection for such individuals.
Therefore, those individuals needing treatment for pain that wanted to avoid the use of opioids were left with a difficult decision – either use alternative treatment or risk losing their job should they be subjected to a random drug test.
However, in July 2019, NJCUMMA was amended to provide protection from termination and other adverse employment actions to employees who are registered qualifying patients under the Act.
Therefore, with certain exceptions, this amendment provided the necessary protections to medicinal marijuana users within the State who did not want to make the impossible choice between their job and treating their medical condition.
As such, while Courts within the State had been divided about the protections reserved for such individuals, this new law provided clarity going forward.
Notwithstanding this amendment, employees were still left wondering how this new regulation would implicate instances occurring prior to its passage.
However, in reviewing a decision of the Appellate Court, the New Jersey Supreme Court in Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc., 2020 WL 1144882 (N.J. Mar. 10, 2020) sided with the State’s employees, seemingly extending similar protections as the NJCUMMA amendment and allowing an employee’s claims to continue where they were terminated for medicinal marijuana use outside of work prior to the amendment’s passage. In so doing, the Court made clear that New Jersey was at the forefront in their protection of employees who are prescribed medicinal marijuana for a qualifying disability.
If you are a registered medicinal marijuana patient or are considering attempting to obtain a registration and are concerned with how your employer has treated you or will treat you, including but not limited to terminating your employment for a positive drug test, please contact the attorneys at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble for a free consultation as to how we can be of assistance.