New Jersey Amends Medical Marijuana Law to Include Protections for Employees and Employers
Workers are now protected from ‘adverse employment action’ for being medical marijuana users, but employers can prohibit cannabis use at the workplace.
Earlier this month, New Jersey became the latest state to adopt legislation granting greater protections for medical cannabis users. In addition, the amendments Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law on July 2 provide clearer standards for employers when it comes to enforcing their own marijuana policies.
The original version of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which was enacted in 2009, did not address employment protections beyond not requiring an employer to “accommodate” the medical use of marijuana in any workplace, according to employment law firm Fisher Phillips.
But, thanks to outside pressure and a March court decision that allowed medical marijuana users to sue employers for disability discrimination, the new law explicitly provides employee protections for medical use.
Renamed the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act, the legislation deletes the old language from the 2009 version and introduces two new provisions. Employers are now prohibited from taking any “adverse employment action” against workers who are registered qualifying patients, meaning that the individuals have been authorized by a health care provider to use medical marijuana and have registered with the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
Employees and job applicants are also given the right to explain positive drug test results. An employer must give the employee a written notice of the right to explain and three working days to present evidence that they have an authorization for medical cannabis from a health care practitioner, have registered with the Cannabis Regulatory Commission or both. The individual can also request a retest of the original sample at their own expense.
In addition to the employee protections, the law also empowers employers to prohibit (or not prohibit) employees from possessing or taking use of intoxicating substances “during work hours or on the premises of the workplace outside of work hours,” according to Fisher Phillips. Businesses are also not required to commit to any policy that would cause them to be in violation of federal law or that would result in the loss of a federal contract or funding.
Outside of the provisions explicitly addressing cannabis use in the workplace, the law also included broader changes that will likely affect workers and their employers. The act increased the number of qualifying illnesses for marijuana use, including seizure disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, cancer, chronic pain and more, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The amendments also allow physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to prescribe medical cannabis instead of only doctors.