Bridgeport marijuana user firefighter wannabe gets trial
BRIDGEPORT — A local man who claims he is being prevented from becoming a firefighter because he has a medical marijuana card will get his day in court.
Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Stewart on Tuesday set June 5 for a trial for James Bulerin III’s claim after rejecting a motion from the city to dismiss the case.
“I’m pleased with the judge’s decision,” said Bulerin’s lawyer, Thomas Bucci. “We should now move forward with the case.”
On May 31, 2012, Connecticut became the 17th state in the country to approve medical marijuana when Gov. Dannell Malloy signed HB 5389, “An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana,” or PUMA.
Under the state law, employers were banned from refusing to hire or fire, penalize or threaten an employee based “solely on the basis of such person’s or employee’s status as a qualifying patient or primary caregiver.”
Bulerin contended he qualified for the position, but was refused because he had a medical marijuana card and tested positive for the drug during his pre-employment physical.
Deputy City Attorney John Bohannon Jr. had filed a motion seeking to dismiss the suit brought by Bulerin, contending that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case and that Bulerin should go through the appeal process before the city’s Civil Service Commission.
Bucci said by the time the commission hears the appeal it will be too late for his client to join the current class of firefighter recruits.
In an 18-page decision, Stewart agreed.
“The Civil Service Commission does not appear to have the authority to issue injunctions and declaratory judgments nor does it have the authority to determine whether there was a PUMA violation and to remedy such a violation,” the judge wrote. “Therefore, the remedies potentially available to the plaintiff in his appeal are not adequate and he is not required to exhaust administrative remedies as a perquisite to proceeding with this court action.”
According to the city’s motion, on Jan. 23, City Personnel Director David Dunn removed Bulerin’s name from the firefighter eligibility list after Bulerin tested positive for marijuana. Bulerin then produced a medical marijuana card.
The city contends that the card cautions against the performance of functions essential to the performance of firefighting duties.
The fact that Bulerin failed to disclose the fact that he was taking medical marijuana during the application process for being a firefighter “prompted concerns regarding plaintiff’s veracity,” the motion states.