Proposed Changes in NJ Medical Marijuana Law Bring New Challenges for Employers
Apr 4, 2018 | Written by: Leslie A. Parikh, Esq. | Share
In a recent press conference, Gov. Phil Murphy addressed the medical marijuana program expansion and listed several changes that will make medical marijuana available to more patients. He specifically stated his intent to change the culture of the medical marijuana program to make it more patient-friendly.
Under the plan, five new categories of medical conditions were added to the legislation, which currently limits eligibility for the program to patients with specific medical conditions. Gov. Murphy’s plan adds anxiety, Tourette’s syndrome, migraine headaches, and two types of chronic pain to that list.
The bill goes on to reduce patient registration fees from $200 to $100, and veterans and senior citizens are now eligible for a reduced registration charge. The proposed changes also increase the amount of medical marijuana a patient may obtain to 4 ounces per month.
The bill was previously introduced by former Gov. John Corzine who signed New Jersey’s medical marijuana program into law during his last day of office in 2010. It is estimated that more than 18,000 patients and 536 doctors have registered to participate, which is likely to rise in the near future.
The change in law raises significant questions for New Jersey employers across the State. Although the New Jersey Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act (NJCUMMA) does not currently provide any employment protection to medical marijuana users, there are still significant issues facing employers that have yet to be fully explored or resolved through litigation. Significantly, questions will arise with regard to job protection for employees who use medical marijuana at home or in a medical setting, or whether employers will be required to give these employees an accommodation for use. Employers need to stay abreast of these issues as they evolve. Employers should also keep in mind that New Jersey has significant legal protections for employees, including the Law Against Discrimination, which is generally construed liberally and in the employees’ favor.
Employers will need to have a clearly written workplace drug policy in order to address the changing legislation. Issues to consider include whether an employer would want to provide an accommodation, even though presently accommodations are not required. The use of medical marijuana would then be treated as any other prescription narcotic medication. Similarly, there are issues involving companies with federal contracts, as well as companies who hire employees to drive or operate heavy machinery.
Other considerations arise under the Federal and New Jersey Family Leave Act. It is likely that employees who qualify for medical marijuana will also have an underlying disability that qualifies them for time off under State and Federal Leave Acts, which should be recognized by employers.
Clearly, there are a number of evolving issues that employers must be made aware of in order to adequately address workplace policy and personnel issues as they arise. I will continue to monitor the evolving legislation and summarize key points for employers in future blogs.
Leslie A. Parikh, Esq., is a partner with Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC. She practices primarily in the areas of employment law, civil rights litigation, municipal law, insurance defense, and the representation of public entities in both State and Federal Court. Contact Ms. Parikh at 908-735-5161 or via email.
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