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How does medical marijuana law fit in with employee rights?

When New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was passed into law, it included very strict guidelines for eligibility. In fact, this past year there were only 1,670 people statewide that were registered under the program. Legislators likely thought about possible abuse of the system and the public health ramifications.

Did lawmakers forget to consider the consequences that those who legally obtained a prescription for medical marijuana could face if they choose to smoke it? We aren’t talking about substance abuse. A recent employment case could set precedent for how legal medical marijuana use affects an employee’s rights.

In this case, the man worked for New Jersey Transit when he was prescribed medical marijuana to manage the pain that resulted from his end-stage renal disease. This past December, he submitted an application to work as a block operator in the railroad division. Knowing he would face a drug test, he informed his employer of his special circumstances.

The man claimed that he was upfront about the issue, presented the necessary documentation related to his prescription and even offered to mitigate the situation by taking a non-safety-sensitive job. Instead, he was instructed to enter rehab. “I’m not a junkie,” the man said; he is simply a man in pain.

By taking legal action, the man hopes that the state will change its policy. The policy change doesn’t have to apply to those safety-sensitive positions where marijuana use, even legal medical use, could put others at risk. He simply wants employers to have to treat medical marijuana as a medication instead of an illegal drug in non-safety-sensitive positions.

Laws that protect against racial discrimination, whistleblower retaliation or sexual harassment may feel like they have been in place forever, but it is important to remember that these rights had to be fought for at one point. The law is constantly evolving, and an employment law attorney can help individuals in New Jersey fight their battle when they believe that their rights have been violated.

Source: NorthJersey.com, “Medical marijuana a dilemma for NJ Transit worker,” Karen Rouse, April 1, 2014

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