In New Jersey, an employee cannot be fired for failing a drug test because of medical marijuana. This decision comes from a recent court ruling on the ongoing debate over medical marijuana and consequences involved in using the substance. The ruling states that as long as employees are not under the influence while at work, medical marijuana patients are protected by the law against discrimination in the workplace.
Some employers will try and argue that a worker was impaired from the marijuana use or works in a high-risk position. Either way, it is illegal to be fired from a failed drug test containing medical marijuana usage. This topic can be challenging to understand, so it is important to hire an employment lawyer to help ensure that one’s rights are protected.
What Did the New Court Ruling Reveal?
The new court ruling in New Jersey will protect thousands of workers from being terminated due to failed drug tests from the use of medical marijuana. This ruling was declared in early September due to the many lawsuits regarding medical marijuana and employment termination. Workers remain protected under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and cannot be fired from medical marijuana use as long as they are not under the influence at work.
There is an ongoing stigma of medical marijuana that American citizens and government officials are attempting to dissolve. As long as the employee has a prescription for the drug and does not come to work impaired, they cannot be fired because of positive drug test results.
There are more than 70,000 New Jersey residents enrolled in the medical marijuana program, meaning that many employees have the right to be cleared from a drug test that comes up positive for medical marijuana use. They also cannot be fired if they disclose to their boss that they use medical marijuana during non-working hours.
What are the Benefits of Medical Marijuana?
Medical marijuana refers to using the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant to treat symptoms and side effects of illnesses. Despite its many benefits, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as a medicinal drug. Many people argue that medical marijuana should be legal because of its ability to treat a wide range of illnesses, including cancer and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, medical marijuana has not gone through enough clinical trials to be approved by the FDA. It is currently undergoing trials and tests and will continue to be researched by scientists.
Medical marijuana has cannabinoids, which are the active chemicals in medical marijuana and are similar to chemicals the body makes that are involved in appetite, memory, movement, and pain. THC and CBD are two main components in medical marijuana. THC can increase appetite and reduce nausea. THC can also decrease pain and inflammation as well as reduce muscle control problems. THC does produce the sensation of feeling impaired unlike CBD which does not give users this sensation. CBD is useful in reducing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures, and helping with mental illnesses and addictions.
Scientists are also conducting research on medical marijuana to treat symptoms, illnesses, and other conditions, including:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Mental disorders
- Loss of appetite
- Crohn’s disease
- Eating disorders
- Muscle spasms
- Reduce anxiety
- Control nausea caused by chemotherapy
- Slow the growth of tumors
- Improve weight gain for people with cancer
How is Medical Marijuana Taken?
Medical marijuana can be taken in a few ways, such as the following:
- Inhaled through a vaporizer that turns the drug into a mist
- Applied to skin through a lotion, spray, oil, or cream
- Liquid to be placed under the tongue
Each method works differently in the body. Smoking or vaporizing the drug will make a person feel the effects quickly, while eating it takes significantly longer to produce effects. A person should consult with a doctor about the best method of consumption for their specific needs.
What are the Side Effects of Medical Marijuana?
Although helpful, medical marijuana does have side effects, including:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Rapid heartbeat
- Low blood sugar
Users of medical marijuana have stated that they choose to use this drug because it allows them to go off of pharmaceuticals and reduces medical costs if they do not have health insurance. Medical marijuana doctors and the products are significantly less expensive, and patients do not have to deal with insurance or copays.
What are the Concerns of Employees?
Employees who take medical marijuana have many concerns when it comes to telling their employers about their drug use. Employees worry that there will be reprecussions if they tell their supervisors, and many would rather keep it a secret due to being afraid of being fired.
If an employee tests positive for medical marijuana use during a drug screening, as long as they have proof for medical usage and it does not impair their job, an employer cannot fire or discriminate against them. The Americans with Disabilities Act can also protect an employee from being terminated due to medical marijuana use if the drug is used to help with their disability.
Why are Employers Worried About Medical Marijuana?
Despite being illegal to fire an employee for medical marijuana use, employers do have concerns when it comes to their workers using this drug. Medical marijuana has many benefits, but employers worry that the drug may negatively impact the way they work. In spite of having a prescription and medical card, many employers worry that the drug will cause their employees to be distracted, or they worry that they will be impaired at work.
Employers fear that if an employee comes to work impaired, they may hurt themselves or others if heavy machinery or driving is involved in their daily job duties. Being under the influence of marijuana produces a greater risk of accidents, especially for workers who work within high-risk areas and workplaces. Employers have valid concerns when it comes to medical marijuana use. Workers who use this drug should never come to work under the influence because this could cause accidents or even death.
What Should I Do if I am Fired for Using Medical Marijuana?
If an employer has been fired from a job due to the use of medical marijuana, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that an employee can pursue a disability discrimination claim under the NJLAD. Medical marijuana is legal in New Jersey if it is prescribed by a health provider. An employer cannot discriminate against someone for the use of this drug to help with various illnesses and symptoms. In many cases, medical marijuana usage actually helps improve a worker’s ability to do their job.
The Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act decriminalized the use of medical marijuana for any qualifying patient acting accordance with its terms, according to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Also, the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act makes several changes to New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. The changes include providing job protections to medical marijuana users and creating new drug testing procedures. If an employee is facing employment issues because of medical marijuana, they should speak to a lawyer right away.
Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Protect Workers Who are Discriminated Against for Using Medical Marijuana
If you have been discriminated against at work because of medical marijuana, contact our Cherry Hill employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. for legal help. We understand how difficult it can be when faced with employment issues because of medical marijuana. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation today. Located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Marlton, Moorestown, and Mount Laurel.