Today, we celebrate another victory for the marijuana community, as a New York firefighter and Air Force veteran won his wrongful termination lawsuit with the City of Buffalo and the fire department, which terminated him in 2021 for testing positive for cannabis despite being a registered medical patient.
Scott Martin, a former member of the US Air Force who served two tours in the Middle East, was a firefighter and Buffalo EMT who served his community for over a decade.
In 2020, Martin was suspended from work after testing positive for cannabis during a random workplace drug test. His suspension came despite Martin being a certified medical marijuana patient in 2018. His prescription helped to relieve his chronic back pain, sleeplessness, and post-traumatic stress disorder, which developed after his time in the Middle East.
According to Martin, the person who performed the drug test was informed that he was a medical marijuana patient. However, their response was that they “didn’t know what to do,” — leading to his suspension.
Two months after Martin was suspended from the Buffalo Fire Department, he received news that both the fire department and the city were terminating his employment.
Even though Martin informed the state that he was already a registered medical marijuana patient, the termination remained.
After his termination, Martin filed a union grievance and a wrongful termination lawsuit in order to force the city to acknowledge his rights as a medical marijuana patient, allowing him to return to work.
The court’s argument was that because the federal government still outlaws cannabis use and requires drug-free workplaces, having medical marijuana employees could hinder the city’s ability to acquire funding from the government.
Another argument was that the city would risk too much liability if they allowed firefighters and public safety members to use marijuana, even if it was legally prescribed.
While the concerns of the state are understandable since cannabis may hinder reaction times during service, Martin has stated several times that he’s never used marijuana while on the job and that a positive drug test result simply means that traces of his medicinal marijuana were still in his system during the test. But it does not mean he was intoxicated or affected by his medicine during the test.
At the end of the trial, the Supreme Court rejected the city’s arguments and agreed to recognize Martins’s rights as a medical marijuana patient, reinstating him to the same rank, seniority, and with the same salary as he has before his termination.
The city also agreed to pay Martin over $200,000 in back pay, and his rights were reinstated under the Compassionate Care Act.
This result is a massive win for medicinal marijuana users who’ve previously lost their jobs or employment opportunities because of medical marijuana usage. As we’re seeing more and more users regain their employment or have their drug use records cleared, we look forward to seeing fewer and fewer cases like this in the years to come.
If you’re interested in reading more about medicinal marijuana, click here.
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