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New Jersey Medical Cannabis Patient Sues Former Employer

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A New Jersey medical cannabis patient is suing his employer claiming he was fired for his off-the-clock cannabis use, NJ.com reports. Jamal Campbell filed his lawsuit against the refinery company, Watco Companies and Watco Transloading LLC, in U.S. District Court in April claiming the firm violated New Jersey’s medical cannabis law and state anti-discrimination laws.

According to the lawsuit outlined by NJ.com, Campbell injured his back on the job in 2016 and became a medical cannabis patient in 2018 for pain related to a bulging disc. The lawsuit contends that Campbell never used cannabis at work or came into work under the influence.

Campbell worked as an operator at the company, mostly loading cargo trains, from 2014 until December 2020 when a manager told him he would have to take a random drug test. Campbell said he would fail due to his medical cannabis use, but the manager said he would have to comply or risk losing his job. Campbell ultimately tested positive for cannabis and was fired.

Campbell further claims that the Kansas-based firm violated New Jersey workplace discrimination laws by not attempting to find reasonable accommodation for his disability and prescribed medical cannabis use, the report says.

New Jersey’s Supreme Court last year ruled that companies cannot fire medical cannabis patients for using cannabis as long as they do not use it at work and that the state Law Against Discrimination protected medical cannabis patients. In April, the court ruled that employers must pay the monthly medical cannabis bills for employees injured on the job.

The state’s cannabis legalization law also protects employees from termination for using cannabis and does not include exemptions for safety-sensitive jobs but does include exemptions for federal workers and some federal contractors. Rachel Haskell, a partner at the Law Office of Christopher Q. Davis, which is representing Campbell, told NJ.com that there is no precedent in the state “on what is safety-sensitive.”

“We believe that both Jake Honig’s Law and the Law Against Discrimination would provide protections for people who are using medical marijuana in addition to the requirements to engage in the interactive process in providing accommodations.” Haskell to NJ.com

Under the legalization law enacted in February, New Jersey employers can still conduct drug tests for cannabis, but they must be paired with a Workplace Impairment Recognition Expert report who witnessed impaired behavior, according to NJ.com.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court because Watco is based out-of-state. A company spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit.