On September 29, 2022, Prince Lobel Partner David C. Holland argued successfully for a terminated firefighter and medical cannabis patient who brought legal action to get his job back. A New York state judge denied the city of Buffalo a quick win in its legal battle with the firefighter. “During the 90-minute hearing in New York Supreme Court, Erie County, attorneys for [the firefighter] and the city wrangled over the scope and limitations of New York’s Compassionate Care Act, the 2014 statute that legalized medical marijuana, and whether it provided job protection for a patient in a safety-sensitive role, even if he did not come to work intoxicated,” reported Law360. Attorney Holland argued that the disability status and attendant protections afforded under the Compassionate Care Act, New York’s medical marijuana law, could not be bargained away in the collective bargaining process and as such, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which specifically declares that it is subject to the controlling state law, was invalid and the employment actions taken against Firefighter Martin were unlawful.
Quoting Attorney Holland, “To sit here and say [at a federal level, medical cannabis] is illegal is a truism of no value because the law is not enforceable at this time in New York with regard to the compliant actions of patients and medical operators in the space.”
“Holland told the court the firefighter, Scott Martin, was using medical cannabis for years without issue before the drug test was administered that precipitated his firing in February 2021,” the article continues. Mr. Martin told the test administrator that he was a certified medical marijuana patient, but was fired pursuant to the city’s agreement with the firefighters’ union, which outlined disciplinary procedures for workers who tested positive for drugs. Mr. Martin was and continues to be a certified and registered medical marijuana patient who is afforded specific and far-reaching protections under the Public Health Law for his medical use of cannabis. Accordingly, Firefighter Martin contends that he is legally protected from any discriminatory or adverse employment action being taken him by the Buffalo Fire Department simply because he is a medical patient who uses his cannabis to treat his qualifying conditions.
Attorney Holland told Law360 that the case “asks apparently novel questions about whether certain rights – specifically those of New York’s certified medical marijuana patients – can be traded away as part of a union’s contract with an employer.” He continues, “We’re glad we had our opportunity to correct the the record as to what happened to Scott Martin, the relief he’s looking for, and the protections that exist for New York State patients, whether they’re subject to a collective bargaining agreement or not.”
Mr. Martin originally filed his petition in May 2021, alleging he was unlawfully fired after a random drug test in December 2020. He is seeking full reinstatement and back pay. The Justice reserved decision on the merits of Martin’s Article 78 proceeding seeking reinstatement to the same position that he occupied immediately before he was administered the first drug test that led to his unlawful suspension and termination. A written decision is expected in the near future.
David C. Holland is a partner and a member of Prince Lobel’s Cannabis, Business Litigation, and White Collar Defense and Government Investigations practice groups.
David is a highly sought-after civil and criminal litigation attorney who has an extensive background in representing a broad range of stakeholders in the cannabis industry. He is the Executive and Legal Director of Empire State NORML, the New York State affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). He is also a co-founder and President of the New York City Cannabis Industry Association (NYCCIA) and Vice President of the Hudson Valley Cannabis Industry Association (HVCIA). David is also a pro bono Legal Advisor to Last Prisoner Project (LPP) seeking clemency and habeas corpus relief for prisoners of the Drug War.
Previously, David spent a dozen years serving Of Counsel to the late Michael Kennedy, Esq., an outspoken criminal defense and civil rights and cannabis advocate. Together, they successfully pursued President Obama with a group clemency petition on behalf of five elderly first time offenders serving at least one sentence of life without the possibility of parole for non-violent marijuana related offenses. During that time, David also provided Counsel to High Times Magazine handling all legal matters. He is a frequent information source for news media outlets and regular lecturer at many multi-disciplinary legal and media events regarding cannabis related issues.
David has challenged the constitutionality of federal cannabis laws in several legal actions, submitted amicus curiae briefs to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Washington v. Barr and Musta v. Mendota Heights Dental Ctr., arguing that the Schedule I status of cannabis under federal law is unconstitutional. He has also brought a Declaratory Judgment action against the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Services on behalf of probationers who are being denied access to medical marijuana under the state’s Compassionate Care Act as well as representing a firefighter who was terminated from the Buffalo Fire Department for his lawful use of medical cannabis. David has been a leading voice in New York’s legalized cannabis laws and emerging industry rules and regulations.
David was named a Top 100 Attorney of the Year in 2021 and a 2022 Metro New York Super Lawyer. He is also named a “Top 200 Cannabis Lawyer” in 2022 in the the Global Top 200 Cannabis Lawyers Directory.
David was admitted to the federal and state courts in New Jersey (1994), New York (1996), and Maryland (2004), as well as the U.S. Supreme Court and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.