Reasonable Accommodation of Medical Cannabis Use: Let’s Talk About It

Cannabis Business Executive

Maxine Neuhauser, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Newark office, authored an article in Cannabis Business Executive, titled “Reasonable Accommodation of Medical Cannabis Use: Let’s Talk About It.”

Following is an excerpt:

In a decision issued in March, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that employers must reasonably accommodate individuals who are legal users of medical cannabis.

The case, Wild v. Carriage House Funeral Home,arose out of a car accident. Wild was employed by Carriage House as a licensed funeral home director. While working a funeral, a vehicle he was driving was hit by a driver who allegedly ran a stop sign. Following the accident, in the context of explaining that he would test positive if drug tested, Wild told his employer that he was a using medical marijuana to treat his cancer. Wild had not previously told his employer of his use of the drug and after learning of it, Carriage House terminated his employment.

Wild, a New Jersey registered user of medical cannabis under the state’s Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act, sued alleging disability discrimination and failure to accommodate under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”), which requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ disabilities.  Carriage House moved to dismiss the complaint arguing that because marijuana use is illegal under federal law, Carriage House had no obligation to accommodate Wild’s criminal conduct.

The Supreme Court – deciding the case based solely on New Jersey law alone – ruled that New Jersey employers may not fire employees, who are legal (under state law) users of medical cannabis based only on such use. Rather, the Court held, legal users of medical cannabis are entitled to reasonable accommodation of disability and protection against disability discrimination under the NJLAD. Of note, the Court did not decide whether Wild was, in fact, entitled to reasonable accommodation or that he was wrongfully fired. It simply permitted his case against Carriage House to continue under the state’s anti-discrimination law.