New Jersey offers employment protections for registered medical cannabis patients

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Amendments have been made to New Jersey’s medical cannabis rules, with authorized patients now being granted employment protections in the Democratic-leaning state. The reworking of regulatory framework means that employers will now be required to meet the needs of employees who use medical cannabis to treat a disability.

Previously known as the “New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act,” the amended law changes its name to the “Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act,” A.K.A. “CUMCA.” It was effectuated instantly with Governor Phil Murphy’s signature on July 2, 2019; immediately shielding medical cannabis patients in New Jersey from being fired or punished for using the plant in its medicinal form.

In addition to ensuring workplace protections for employees who use medical cannabis as a treatment, the CUMCU creates new drug testing strategies. The amendment also broadens access to medical cannabis for patients who meet the eligibility criteria for enrollment in the program, which was originally launched on January 18, 2010, by former Governor Jon Corzine.

West Virginia’s medical cannabis law safeguards employees from job dismissal 

Based on the amended language of West Virginia’s medical cannabis law, employers are no longer able to take adverse employment action on any member of their workforce for consuming the plant as medicine.

“Refusing to hire or employ an individual, barring or discharging an individual from employment, requiring an individual to retire from employment, or discriminating against an individual in compensation or in any terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,” reads the regulatory amendment in regards to what is deemed to be “adverse employment action.”

The CUMCA law applies “based solely on the employee’s status” as a patient enrolled in New Jersey’s medical cannabis program. The CUMCA does not provide workplace protections for employees who possess or use “intoxicating substances during work hours or on workplace premises outside of work hours.”

Employees who “violate federal law or result in the loss of a federal contract or federal funding” as a result of using medical cannabis in West Virginia can have adverse employment action taken against them.

Employee drug testing not prohibited under West Virginia’s medical cannabis rules

In spite of the fact that employers can still legally carry out drug tests on their employees under the terms of the CUMCA, the amendments made to West Virginia’s medical cannabis law outline a specific set of rules that must be followed by employers in the event that a drug test shows up positive for cannabis.

In instances whereby cannabis drug test results show up positive, employers will not be allowed to dismiss employees without first giving the individual a chance to demonstrate a valid explanation as to why the test results came back positive. Should the employee be unable to prove their reason(s) for testing positive for weed, drug retesting can be requested.

However, the request must be made by the employee no more than three working days after the applicant is delivered a written notice by the employer inviting them to do so.

West Virginia’s revised medical cannabis rules starkly contrast the previous law. Before the CUMCA amendments took effect, employers were advised against accommodating the medical use of [cannabis] in any workplace.