On March 26, 2021, the ACLU-NH and the Disability Rights Center of New Hampshire filed a “friend of the court” brief at the New Hampshire Supreme Court in Paine v. Ride-Away, Inc. In this case, the plaintiff suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, and is enrolled in the state’s Therapeutic Cannabis Program to treat his PTSD. He requested a reasonable accommodation to be able to use cannabis off company premises and while not at work. The superior court — without engaging in the standard fact-intensive analysis typically governing reasonable-accommodation cases — dismissed his lawsuit because, it concluded, that the law does not require a company to ever accommodate therapeutic cannabis use.
Our brief explains that the trial court interpreted the relevant statutes incorrectly, and wrongly considered the federal Controlled Substances Act in reaching its conclusion. We also point out to the Supreme Court that over ten thousand people in New Hampshire are enrolled in the Therapeutic Cannabis Program for a variety of qualifying medical conditions, and that the trial court’s decision put them at increased risk of employment discrimination, even as people with disabilities face significant hurdles finding employment.
On January 14, 2022, the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with our brief and the plaintiff’s position and reversed the superior court’s decision. The Supreme Court ruled that “the trial court erred in determining that the use of therapeutic cannabis prescribed in accordance with RSA chapter 126-X cannot, as a matter of law, be a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability under RSA chapter 354-A.” In other words, the Court held that the use of therapeutic cannabis prescribed in accordance with New Hampshire’s therapeutic cannabis statute can be a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability under New Hampshire’s Law Against Discrimination.