State Medical Marijuana Law Ensnares Another Employer – This Time It’s Amazon

We at the Wiley Law Office have taken a special interest in state medical marijuana laws ever since Minnesota adopted its law back in 2014.  While those taking medical marijuana are not protected under the ADA or ADAAA, there are always tie-ins between those eligible for the medical cannabis registry and possible accommodations in the workplace.  And since advising on employee accommodations is an especially complex and rewarding part of our practice, one can imagine the issues we see with medical cannabis on a regular basis. 

Minnesota’s medical cannabis registry is somewhat unique in the United States, in that it provides protections for registry participants against discrimination by employers.  The Minnesota law was adopted in the state of New Jersey, almost to the letter.  That brings us to the case we’ll be discussing today. 

New Jersey is home to one of many Amazon distribution centers, and employed the plaintiff in this case, D.J.C.  D.J.C. suffered from anxiety and a panic disorder, and had a medical card for medical marijuana in the state.  The plaintiff worked as a warehouse associate in 2017, and was notified in 2018 that he was selected for a random drug test.  Allegedly, the plaintiff attempted to tell the sample collector what medications he was taking, including medical marijuana, but was told he would have an opportunity to disclose that information if he received a positive test result. 

One month later, D.J.C. was notified by Amazon HR that he was terminated for failing his drug test.  He informed them he had a valid medical marijuana card, and was then placed on administrative leave to fill out paperwork associated with the card, showing he was fit for duty.  After having the paperwork completed by his doctor, and less than a week after he was placed on leave, the D.J.C. was terminated for failing to notify anyone of his medical marijuana prescription prior to the test.  He was also allegedly forbidden from being hired in other Amazon companies, including Whole Foods, to which he applied after being terminated. 

Interestingly enough, the plaintiff alleged violations of the Americans with Disability Act, as well as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.  As noted earlier, the ADA does not provide protection for employees using illegal drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, but the State’s medical cannabis law does offer protection for those prescribed medical cannabis. 

Employers need to be aware of these laws as they are developing.  Anxiety was added to the list of conditions in New Jersey which were eligible for medical cannabis in March of 2018, and the employee was terminated in August. 

Employers also need to be aware of the procedures they must follow in order to comply with the medical marijuana laws.  In this case, the employee allegedly attempted to provide an explanation for his positive drug test both before and after the test, but was told he failed to comply with the notice portions of the testing process.  In Minnesota, at least, the employee has three days following notice of a positive test result to submit information to his or her employer any explanation for the positive test result, including enrollment in the medical cannabis registry. 

If you have any concerns about employees currently or potentially enrolled in the medical cannabis registry, contact the Wiley Law Office, for up-to-date legal advice that works.  For more information on the Minnesota Registry Program or any of the other states where cannabis is legal in some form, sign up for the NPELRA Annual Training Conference, in Austin, Texas, where our very own Ben Reber will be presenting on the subject!