This week, the New Jersey Supreme Court announced that it would consider whether the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s (NJLAD’s) protection of employees’ use of prescription medication trumps the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act’s (CUMMA’s) statement that employers are not required to “accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace.” In March, we wrote about the appellate court’s decision in Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc., et al, Docket No. A-3072-17T3 (App. Div. March 27, 2019), in which the panel of judges held that the NJLAD may require an employer to provide an accommodation to a medical marijuana user, despite New Jersey’s medical marijuana laws providing that such an accommodation is not required.
The case involved a funeral director who was fired after a positive drug test and a violation of the employer’s drug use policy. The plaintiff claimed that he only used medical marijuana at night, after work, to treat symptoms of his cancer. The plaintiff claimed that the CUMMA permitted his use of prescribed marijuana, and the NJLAD required his employer to accommodate that prescription use. The trial court dismissed the NJLAD claim, relying primarily on the CUMMA’s statement that “nothing in this act shall be construed to require . . . an employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace.” N.J.S.A. 24:6I-14.
The Appellate Division disagreed, essentially holding that the statement in the CUMMA that it does not “require” an employer to accommodate marijuana use does not supersede another law’s requirement. The panel stated that to the CUMMA’s statement that it does not “require” an accommodation “does not mean that the [CUMMA] has immunized employers from obligations already imposed elsewhere. It would be ironic indeed if the [CUMMA] limited the [NJLAD] to permit an employer’s termination of a cancer patient’s employment by discriminating without compassion.”
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in this case will provide employers with further guidance regarding employees’ legal use of medical marijuana. Until that decision is issued, and unless the New Jersey Supreme Court reverses the Appellate Division’s decision, employers should be wary of any employment actions that treat medical marijuana users differently than employees using other legally prescribed medication.