Buffalo Firefighter Loses His Job for Using Medical Marijuana
The 12-year veteran used cannabis rather than opioids for chronic pain.
The Buffalo city fire department terminated a firefighter (and Air Force veteran) after his urine sample tested positive for THC. He’s now suing to get his job back.
Scott Martin, a 12-year veteran of the Buffalo Fire Department, lost his job for using cannabis to chronic back pain, as well as to lessen the symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress order that developed after he served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I lost my dream job, and the way it happened was horrible,” Martin told News 4 in Buffalo. He has sued the city in a case that is still pending in the court system.
Martin's case mirrors those from other parts of the country, including a worker for Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia who lost her job after testing positive for cannabis even though she had a doctor’s prescription to use weed to treat chronic back pain.
A career of service
Martin graduated from Depew High School east of Buffalo and joined the Air Force, where he trained as a specialized firefighter and emergency medical technician. He served what he calls a “seven-month traumatic assignment” in Iraq before being deployed to Afghanistan to a firebase near the Province of Khost as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
After returning to Buffalo in 2005, Martin worked at PepsiCo. He eventually decided to pursue his dream and work as a firefighter and EMT, something previous family members had done.
After joining the Buffalo Fire Department in 2009, Martin worked at different stations before finally getting a position with 1st Platoon Truck 14, the job he always wanted at a station near where he went to church, according to News 4.
Told his superiors he would fail a drug test
Before taking a urine test on Dec. 15, Martin revealed he expected to test positive and that he is a medical marijuana patient. He told the Buffalo News that he had experienced PTSD symptoms from some of the situations he had witnessed on the job, including treating people injured in auto accidents or shootings.
Martin also said he suffered from chronic back pain. Doctors previously prescribed opioids, but he said that taking them “made me feel like I was tweaking out all the time.” He found a doctor to prescribe medical marijuana, which he takes before going to bed each night. He said cannabis worked better for his pain than opioids.
A week after the December incident, Martin received a letter from the fire department stating that it had suspended him without pay and that he must seek substance abuse treatment. After a Feb. 5 test came back positive for marijuana, the department fired Martin. His attorney told the Buffalo News that an outdated collective bargaining agreement led to Martin’s firing. The agreement has not been updated since medical marijuana became legal in New York in 2014.
While the case makes it way through the courts, Martin told Buffalo News he hopes the city will use the case to update the agreement and prevent future city employees from going through the same situation.