PRINCETON — A former Libertarian candidate for Congress says his employer, Princeton University, has told him must choose between keeping his job or participating in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.
“They’re basically backing me into a corner and asking me to choose between my livelihood and your health,” Dom DeZarn, said today while staging a one-man protest on Princeton’s campus.
Princeton University spokesman Mike Caddell declined to comment on the situation, as it is a personnel matter.
DeZarn, who is a senior operations manager in the campus dining department, said he will meet with university human resources employees next week about the ultimatum, which came as a surprise considering his state Senate campaign in New Jersey’s 14th District focused on legalization of marijuana and he’s been twice arrested promoting the cause.
The university has never registered a complaint about DeZarn’s marijuana use during his 18-year career there, DeZarn said. At times, senior administrators even praised him for his dogged support of a hot-button topic, he said.
In a letter from Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, Princeton vice president for human resources, told DeZarn that the university would consider his request for “reasonable accommodations.” Sullivan-Crowley notes that the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act doesn’t require employers to allow workers to use the drug 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,” Sullivan-Crowley said. “In addition, there are other legal obligations of the university that would impact whether a particular accommodation would be reasonable.”
DeZarn said he smokes medical marijuana to help control spasms related to inflammatory bowel disease and to ease the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, acquired through his military service with the U.S. Army and Navy.
The strain he was prescribed contains a low amount of THC, the psychoactive component of the drug, and higher amounts of CBD, an ingredient which the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has said helps spasms, including those suffered by Parkinson’s disease patients.
DeZarn planned on “medicating” on campus and informed public safety directors about his intentions in an attempt to prevent an “embarrassing moment” for both parties in the event of a campus police arrest, eh said.
“I wasn’t trying to pull anything on them or get high at work,” DeZarn said.
But a public safety official for the university told DeZarn that marijuana use on campus would not be acceptable, citing a concern that he could pose a safety risk for students and guests if he were high, according to DeZarn.
“(The) exact words were: ‘If you want to participate in this program, you can stay home and get high with your friends,’” DeZarn said.
DeZarn said has already turned to New Jersey’s marijuana community for support, asking them to contact Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber and ask that he be allowed to continue working.
“I’m only seven years away from retirement,” DeZarn said. “I don’t want to be in that position, out beating the streets trying to find a new job and start all over again.”
Mike Davis may be reached at @njtimes.com. Follow him on Twitter The Times of Trenton on Facebook.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct information about DeZarn’s 2013 campaign and include comments in a letter from Princeton University’s human resources department.
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