After threatening to fire Don DeZarn if he participated in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, Princeton University has placed the campus dining employee on paid administrative leave until the face-off is resolved.
DeZarn had returned to work on Sept. 2 for the first time since he informed Princeton officials two weeks ago that he would be using medical marijuana to treat symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Times of Trenton. A public safety administrator informed DeZarn that he could not work for the university even if he was treating himself at home.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had. It’s a great place to work. I’m just hopeful that this whole thing has just been an oversight on someone’s part,” DeZarn told the Times of Trenton. “I hope somebody up the chain of command will look at what I’m requesting and have an open mind and some common sense.”
As a political candidate the past two years, medical marijuana has been DeZarn’s platform. He was arrested twice on possession charges while attending marijuana legalization protests in Philadelphia last year.
Human Resources officials told DeZarn and local reporters that the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act does not require employers to let employees use pot in the workplace.
“The law seems to support an employer’s right to maintain a drug-free workplace, including prohibiting the use of marijuana during work hours as well as working while under the influence of marijuana,” university vice president Lianne Sullivan-Crowley wrote in an Aug. 27 letter.
DeZarn said he was prescribed a specific strain of marijuana that contains low amounts of THC, the intoxicating component of the drug, and higher amounts of CBD, an ingredient which studies have shown helps spasms, including those suffered by irritable bowel disease patients.
When he returned to work, Princeton’s human resources department gave DeZarn guidance on how he can request accommodations under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.A university spokesman said Princeton would research if DeZarn could be accommodated under the disabilities act.
In a Facebook post DeZarn wrote on Monday night, he said he would face whatever repercussions came from continuing in the medical marijuana program.
“I have decided that I will return to work at my regular position tomorrow and will conduct myself just like any other university employee,” DeZarn said. “When it becomes necessary to medicate with a medicine prescribed to me by a licensed physician, I will do just that.”