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Medical marijuana users gain legal protection in New Jersey

Many people believe that the national legalization of marijuana for medicinal use is long overdue — but it has remained a thorny subject even in states where the drug is available to some people because there are no federal protections for users.

Well, an appellate court has just ruled that employers in New Jersey, at least, cannot automatically terminate an employee for failing a mandatory drug test if that employee is using medical marijuana.

The ruling was handed down on March 27. The lawsuit that provoked the ruling was between a funeral home and one of its former employees, who was taking medical marijuana for his cancer treatment.

According to the lawsuit, the employee was injured in an accident while driving a company car. The accident was not attributed to any fault on his part. When he was taken to the hospital, he let the emergency room staff know that he was using medical marijuana and provided proof that he had a prescription. He also provided proof of the prescription to his employer.

However, the funeral home fired the employee anyhow because the company required a mandatory drug test following accidents — which the employee naturally failed. The funeral home refused to take into account that the marijuana in his system was not a factor in his accident and was a prescription treatment for his disease.

The employee sued and lost his initial lawsuit, but the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision saying, that it would be “ironic” to allow an employer to fire a cancer patient by discriminating against that patient for availing himself of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.

This is an important step forward for the rights of patients who use medical marijuana. It seems unreasonable to discriminate against a class of patients because of their prescription medication when that medication doesn’t impair their ability to work.

If you believe you’ve been the subject of illegal disability discrimination, you may have options. Find out more about workplace discrimination laws today.

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