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New Jersey employers not required to allow medical marijuana

If you use medical marijuana in New Jersey, there’s some distressing news you should hear. Despite its legalization under state law, your use of medical marijuana isn’t afforded any protections under the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

A recent case in federal court addressed the issue. A New Jersey forklift operator alleged that he was using medical marijuana to control pain from an old injury. He was honest about his use of the drug with his employer when he was initially hired on by the company, and he worked six years without an incident — or any apparent problem on the company’s part.

That changed, however, when the forklift operator was injured at work in 2016. Suddenly, his employer wouldn’t permit him to return to work until he agreed to substance-abuse testing through a Breathalyzer and urinalysis. The employer refused to waive the drug test, despite knowing that the forklift operator had been using medical marijuana for some time.

In response, the forklift operator filed a lawsuit alleging disability discrimination. He argued that New Jersey’s anti-discrimination laws, which are some of the strictest in the nation, should afford him the right to waive the drug test given that medical marijuana is now legal in the state.

Unfortunately, the federal judge hearing the case disagreed. Per the court’s ruling, New Jersey employers are not required to waive a drug test or accommodate the use of medical marijuana so long as the drug remains illegal on the federal level.

That’s a significant blow to many of the state’s medical marijuana users. It’s important to be aware of the limitations on what the court will and will not consider a reasonable disability accommodation — and why. There’s hope that the situation will eventually change — particularly as marijuana use becomes more acceptable and attitudes continue to change nationally. If the use of the drug is decriminalized federally, anti-discrimination laws would then apply to medical marijuana users. Until then, the possibility of job loss remains significant.

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