Medical marijuana is legal in the majority of states, including New Jersey. In fact, the New Jersey Senate recently voted overwhelmingly to expand the state’s medical marijuana program. Amendments are still being added to the bill, so it hasn’t made it to the governor’s desk yet.
However, employers have still been known to fire people or decline to hire them because they were found to have the drug in their system or even because they had been approved to use medical marijuana and were listed in a state database.
Because fewer than half of the states with legalized medical marijuana have laws that protect employees from being discriminated against or fired for use of the drug, people across the country have taken their cases to court.
While judges used to rule more often than not in favor of employers, that has started to change. For example, last month a New Jersey appeals court ruled that employees who use medical marijuana are protected from discrimination in the same way that those with disabilities are protected. Courts in several New England states have issued similar rulings.
The fact that marijuana use for any purpose is still considered illegal under federal law may be one source of confusion for employers and civil courts. As a law professor who’s studied the constitutionality of drug testing workers says, “The big problem is [marijuana] remains illegal federally except for narrow exceptions. There’s this conflict, and a lot of the court rulings have deferred to federal law. It’s a very confusing situation.”
Even though marijuana has been shown to help treat a wide range of medical conditions, some employers still perceive it as a drug that can impair employee performance and safety. However, even if a person tests positive for the active ingredient in the drug, THC, that doesn’t mean they’ve used marijuana recently — let alone that they’re impaired by it. THC can be present in a person’s bloodstream more than a month after they last used it.
If you believe that you were not hired, terminated or suffered other workplace discrimination because you tested positive for marijuana, it may be wise to determine what your legal options are. An experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance and information.