Legalization of Cannabis in New Jersey Means Employers Should Revise Their Workplace Policies

On February 22, 2021, Governor Philip Murphy signed into law a trio of bills that collectively legalize adult use of recreational cannabis in the State of New Jersey.  The legalization of cannabis, more commonly referred to as marijuana, will have a significant impact on workplaces and institutions of higher education across the state of New Jersey.  Employers should contact legal counsel for guidance on revising their workplace policies to comply with the new law and ensure a safe and healthy working environment. 

The following are key points employers should consider to comply with the new Law.

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Federal Court Finds that Employers in New Jersey are not Required to Waive Drug Test for Medical Marijuana

Image of Medical Marijuana InsigniaThe issue of whether an employer is required to accommodate an employee’s alleged disability by allowing the use of medical marijuana for chronic pain and waive the requirement that he pass a drug test as a condition of employment, was recently addressed by a New Jersey federal court.  In Cotto, Jr. v. Ardagh Glass Packing, Inc., the plaintiff, a forklift operator, hit his head and was asked to take a drug test to continue his employment.  The plaintiff employee told his employer that he could not pass a drug test because he used medical cannabis for pain management to recover from back and neck injuries.  His employer responded that passing a drug test was a condition of his employment, and he was indefinitely suspended.  The employee filed a lawsuit alleging that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) required that his employer waive the requirement that he pass a drug test as a condition of employment in order to accommodate his disability.

The employer filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint on the basis that the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (“Medical Marijuana Act”) did not require the employer to accommodate the employee and allow him to continue working while he was unable to pass a drug test based on the use of a substance that is illegal under federal law.  The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Camden Vicinage, granted the employer’s motion to dismiss, finding that neither the Medical Marijuana Act nor NJLAD compelled the employer to waive the employee’s drug test requirement.

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