The landscape of the U.S.’s policies toward marijuana use is certainly changing, and has been for a while now. With the availability of legal, medical cannabis on the rise, there are certainly many concerns that are sure to get raised as employees face drug-testing initiatives. One man, 57-year-old Charlie Davis, who has been working at the New Jersey Transit agency for about five years, has just become caught in the gears of such an issue. Although he is legally prescribed pot, his employer does not have a tolerance doctrine in place that would allow Davis adequate protection from firing or reprimand. Now, this NJ Transit worker, who was forced to enter rehab, is actually suing the agency over their strict policies towards employee use of medical marijuana.
Davis, who has been working for the company in a variety of positions since 2008, did take a drug test back in 2012 when he began work as a block operator, a position in which he was required to sometimes operate drawbridges. At that time, the results came back negative for marijuana. However, in recent times, Charlie Davis has become ill, suffering from renal failure. As a result, he endures pain in his legs and has trouble sleeping. After a doctor recommended that he use use medical marijuana, Davis found that the cannabis actually provided pain relief and sleep assistance. Marijuana in the state of New Jersey has been medically available since 2012.
When Davis began using pot to treat his symptoms, he was no longer a block operator, but a lead procurement clerk for NJ Transit. Roughly a month or two after he began treatment for pain, Davis was “bumped” to a lower position, and a higher-ranking employee replaced him. Needing to continue adequate employment, Davis reapplied for a position as block operator within the organization. However, in order to take on such position, David would need to undergo a physical and potentially another drug test. It was the results of the drug test that forced Davis into rehab, and led this NJ Transit worker to sue the agency, which does not tolerate employee use of medical marijuana.
When Davis arrived for his physical, he claims to have told the administrator that he was, in fact, treating his symptoms with legally prescribed medical marijuana. Davis presented a card he had been issued by a state-licensed physician under the Department of Health’s Medicinal Marijuana Program. He alleges that he offered to put himself up for a job that would not require the operation of machinery, such as a desk clerk or custodian. However, as a result of his admission to using marijuana, he was asked to submit to a drug test. When the results came back positive, he was told he would need to participate in a drug rehabilitation program or forfeit employment with the agency.
Now, after spending two months in a Manhattan-based program for addicts, Davis has decided to take on his employer, who he feels dealt with the situation unfairly. Although people like Davis are given freedom to treat certain illnesses with marijuana under New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, they are not protected from scrutiny and punishment from their employers. As a result, this NJ Transit worker, who was medically advised to use marijuana, is now suing the agency which forced him into rehab.
By Josh Taub