NYPD Officer Forced To Resign After Using Medical Marijuana
Ex-NYPD officer Robert Cascalenda pushed for medical marijuana use because he believed it could be used to treat chronic medical problems as an alternative to dangerous prescription painkillers, according to the department's doctors. The law and attitudes toward medical marijuana use have changed, but the NYPD's personnel policy has not kept pace, according to a new lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court. C Pascalenda, now retired, claims in the lawsuit that he was forced out of the ministry because he pushed for his use and medical marijuana use.
In the lawsuit, Cascalenda says that when he turned to medical marijuana, he was forced to quit by the NYPD's Interior Department. As a police officer, he suffered a series of injuries that led him to take a number of prescription painkillers, according to his lawsuit.
There are hundreds of police officers working in the role, Cascalenda said, and he knows of at least one police officer who has taken opioids himself and wanted to participate in the medical marijuana program.
Cascalenda, a Staten Island native who joined the NYPD in 2008, sprained his ankle in a police operation in Queens in 2010 after he broke his shin in a brawl with a student who resisted arrest. Then in 2015, he tore ligaments in one leg in Coney Island and suffered injuries to his neck and back when his car was covered in bones.
He was prescribed mood stabilizers to help him cope with the pain of his injuries and the pain of his previous injuries. Cascalenda said his doctor had prescribed painkillers, including Oxycontin and Tramadol, but his personal doctor feared they would harm his health and lead to an overdose and suggested a switch to medical marijuana. The lawsuit says NYPD surgeon Dr. Joseph Hedderman agreed that medical cannabis is safer than prescription painkillers.
So, with the blessing of his doctor, Cascalenda got a state ID card that allowed him to purchase medical marijuana. A few months later, he began using a vape pen and tablets he had bought himself, but the NYPD Internal Affairs Office then intervened, according to the lawsuit.
Cascalenda was asked to take a drug test on September 5, 2019, which tested positive for marijuana. The employer could decide that there was no alternative that would allow the employee to continue working, the lawsuit said.
When he showed his medical marijuana ID, he claimed to have received a fake ID and was questioned overnight at the Interior Ministry office. Authorities suspended him, but it was quickly clear that the NYPD would not apply the law to police officers, the lawsuit said.
Hedderman could not be reached for comment, but his attorney, Michael J. D'Amato Jr. countered that the use of marijuana, which was approved by his NYPD doctor, had been ignored. I'm not sure what to do. "I'm not," he said, according to the lawsuit against the NYPD, the Department of Health, and the New York Police Department.
Cascalenda also said that his interrogators had pushed open the toilet door and made fun of him while he was inside at night.
On October 29, 2019, he tested positive for marijuana again, and the next day he suffered a severe asthma attack and was diagnosed with pneumonia. He said he was suicidal and called 911, but paramedics took him to Richmond University Medical Center, where he has been in a coma for more than a week.
The indictment states that Cascalenda was tied to his bed for three days and when he left the hospital, he was suspended for two weeks without pay.
The indictment says he told investigators in an official interview that he had stopped using medical marijuana. He said it was illegal in New York, even though it was legal in the state, "Cascalenda said. The NYPD has no reason to force him out of office, except for other circumstances that prevented him from becoming a police officer, according to the Compassionate Care Act, which is supported by more than 60 percent of New Yorkers and the American Medical Association, according to a news release.