The New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled unanimously that a construction company must pay the monthly medical cannabis bill of an injured employee, the Associated Press reports. The decision upholds an appellate court ruling from last year.
The court determined that while government aid programs and private health insurers are not required to cover medical cannabis under state law, private employers are not exempt from such cases.
The employee, Vincent Hager, in 2001 sustained a herniated disc that caused back and leg pain when a truck dumped cement on him, the report says. Hager underwent multiple surgeries for his injuries and was prescribed opioid-based medications that he ultimately became dependent on. His employer, M&K Construction, argued that it was not required to reimburse a former employee for a federally-outlawed substance and that being forced to provide medical cannabis reimbursement would constitute aiding and abetting illegal activity.
Both the Supreme Court and appellate court said that the aiding and abetting defense doesn’t apply since the company is not directly purchasing or giving the former employee cannabis.
This is at least the third pro-cannabis ruling related to employment by a New Jersey court. In 2018, a Workers’ Compensation judge in the state ordered Freehold Township to pay for a claimant’s medical cannabis – the second time such a decision had been made in the Garden State.
Last year, the state Supreme Court ruled that employees can maintain action under the state Law Against Discrimination against employers if the employee suffers an adverse employment action for lawful medical cannabis use.
In a case last year, a U.S. District Court punted a case accusing Amazon of unlawfully firing a medical cannabis patient back the New Jersey’s highest court to make a final ruling.
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