The bill passed by the New Jersey Legislature yesterday that legalizes marijuana use by patients with certain chronic illnesses is likely to significantly impact employers in the state. The bill, which Governor Jon S. Corzine is expected to sign before leaving office January 19, 2010, would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients who have been diagnosed with such illnesses as cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and Lou Gehrig's disease. Under the bill, insurance companies are not required to pay for the cost of the marijuana.

The bill is expected to take effect in six months. The Department of Health will issue registry identification cards to eligible patients.

The bill explicitly states that nothing in the act shall be construed to require an employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in the workplace. Nevertheless, some employment issues that may arise are:

  • Applicability of drug-testing and drug-free workplace policies to job applicants and/or employees
  • Reasonable accommodation and essential job function issues under state and federal disability laws
  • Intermittent leave issues under state and federal family and medical leave laws
  • Discipline and discharge issues over alleged or confirmed employee use of marijuana