Medical marijuana use is legal to varying degrees in more than half of the states in the U.S., including New Jersey. The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA), which was first enacted in 2009, allows individuals to purchase, possess, and use marijuana products under the direction of a physician. Prior to 2019, the text of the statute was rather ambiguous about how it impacted employees’ rights in the workplace. The New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled on a case that began in 2017, in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant fired him because of his lawful medical marijuana use, in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The court affirmed a decision from the Appellate Division that allowed the case to go forward.
Two provisions of CUMMA appear to implicate employees’ rights. Section 8 of the statute states in part that the law does not allow an individual to operate any sort of vehicle or heavy machinery “while under the influence of marijuana.” Section 16 provides that the law does not require “an employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace.”
The LAD prohibits employers from firing an employee or subjecting them to other adverse or disparate treatment because of a disability. The statute defines “disability” to include “physical…mental, psychological or developmental disabilit[ies]” that are “demonstrable, medically or psychologically, by accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques.” The definition of “debilitating medical condition” provided by CUMMA overlaps with the LAD’s definition of “disability” in numerous areas.