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N.H. Supreme Court: Medical marijuana use a reasonable accommodation for employee disability

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An employer that refused to let a worker who is prescribed cannabis opt out of drug tests erred in its decision to fire him, the state’s highest court has ruled.

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In a unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice Gordon MacDonald, the court sided with Scott Paine, a former employee of Ride-Away, Inc., a Londonderry-based company that does wheelchair van conversions.

Paine was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, and is enrolled in the state’s therapeutic cannabis program. He was fired by Ride-Away after submitting a written request to be exempted from the company’s drug testing policy as a reasonable accommodation for his disability.

“The plaintiff explained that he was not requesting permission to use cannabis during work hours or to possess cannabis on the defendant’s premises,” the court’s opinion reads.

Paine was fired from his position as a detailer in September 2018. He then sued on the grounds that Ride-Away was discriminating against him, an argument that was rejected by Superior Court Judge Dan St. Hilaire.

Hilaire wrote in a 2020 ruling that the law “in no way obligates an employer to accommodate” use of marijuana, even for therapeutic purposes.

But on appeal, the Supreme Court found state law doesn’t exempt cannabis as an accommodation, and that such accommodations “should be decided on a case-by-case basis depending on the specific facts of the case.”

The ACLU of New Hampshire and the Disability Rights Center submitted briefs on Paine’s behalf.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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