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Disability Concerns Gain Focus in Regard to Medical Marijuana Legalization

(Winter 2018) United States District Judge Jeffrey Meyer handed down the first federal court ruling in favor of state medical marijuana legislation over the federal ban. This could set precedent for other cases throughout the nation. The case involved Katelin Noffsinger, who learned that her job offer from a company in Connecticut was pulled after she tested positive for THC, a psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Noffsinger was legally prescribed synthetic marijuana pills under state law to help with PTSD developed after a car crash in 2012. Even though she disclosed that she was a medical marijuana card holder when she accepted the position, her job offer was withdrawn when her drug test returned positive.

Noffsinger’s prospective employer cited that it is a federal contractor, subject to being denied government funding if it onboarded an individual using a federally-illicit drug. However, Judge Meyer ruled that the company broke state law by denying Noffsinger employment due to her medication. Meyer pointed out that the federal Drug Free Workplace Act (the rules that many federal contractors use for drug guidelines) does not mandate drug screening or ban contractors from employing medical marijuana card holders who use the drug while off-duty.

Further upholding the rights of medical marijuana patients, the New York City Commission on Human Rights brought forward new guidelines on disability discrimination, widening the definition beyond federal or state legislation. Under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), employers will not be able to refuse to employ an otherwise qualified applicant because the individual is a medical marijuana card holder and, therefore, perceived as unable to do the essential functions of the job. The NYCHRL also states that an employer cannot demand that a worker with a disability have no medical restrictions if that worker can fulfill job duties with or without reasonable accommodation. This appears to be potentially applicable to an employee’s use of medical marijuana. In addition, workplaces are not permitted to ask a potential employee if he or she previously had or currently has a disability or is a medical marijuana card holder.

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