Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.

The Editorial Board: City firefighter should not be punished for using a legal medication

  • 0
Buffalo Firefighter Scott Martin (copy) (copy)

Scott Martin was fired from the Buffalo Fire Department after testing positive for marijuana. Martin says he is a certified medical marijuana license holder who uses cannabis to treat his PTSD and back pain. Given changes in the law, the city and union need to update their rules on the use of marijuana.

Support this work for $1 a month

Cannabis, medically and recreationally legal in New York State, is still causing unnecessary burdens for its legitimate users, problems that are clearly hangovers from the years when possession was a criminal offense.

That’s certainly the case with Buffalo firefighter Scott Martin, who was fired from his job in February 2021 after testing positive for marijuana. Union-mandated drug testing policy, which hasn’t been updated since medical cannabis was legalized in New York in 2014, got Martin fired, despite his openness about his prescribed medication and the fact that he is a certified medical patient under the Compassionate Care Act.

Rules are rules, but we believe there is opportunity here for the firefighters’ union to make an adjustment in Martin’s case. Further, it should consider drastically revising this outdated policy for its next labor agreement with the city.

In the latest installment of Martin’s saga, it now seems that he will receive a $242,000 settlement from the City of Buffalo in his civil lawsuit, initiated on May 5.

Judge Catherine Panepinto has still to decide if Martin can be reinstated to his position, rank and seniority in the fire department, which is what the dedicated firefighter wants most of all.

Martin is a 12-year veteran with the fire department and, before that, served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received injuries that caused back pain. At first resorting to opiates to relieve his discomfort, Martin found that medical cannabis worked better, without the side effects and danger of addiction, always present with the use of medications such as Oxycontin, which had been prescribed for him.

It is ironic, that while so many struggle with opiate addiction – which continues to take thousands of New York lives yearly and incurs more than $500 million per year in prevention, treatment and other costs – that a public servant who is able to avoid these risks responsibly and legally, is being punished for his efforts.

The city, in defending its refusal to reinstate Martin, claims the firefighter is not physically fit to return to work, citing the arduous duties he’d be required to carry out, including carrying people out of burning buildings and lifting heavy fire hoses.

For their parts, Martin and his attorneys note that there have never been any official complaints about Martin being unfit or unable to perform as a firefighter. All medications have possible side effects, and many of them cannot be used during various types of physical activities. That’s why they should be taken according to directions.

Martin has stated many times that he never uses his medication except in the evening before sleep.

It is time for outdated regulations, like those agreed to between the city and the firefighters union when cannabis was still completely illegal, to be revised in accordance with New York law.

It doesn’t help that the federal government continues to classify cannabis as a “schedule 1” narcotic, in the same category as heroin and LSD. This has created huge problems for the many states where cannabis is now legal, either medically, recreationally or both, as well as for business owners in the burgeoning cannabis industry.

Changes at the federal level would make it much easier for municipalities and their unions to bring their policies into the realm of common sense.

In the meantime, Scott Martin should get his job back.

• • •

What’s your opinion? Send it to us at Letters should be a maximum of 300 words and must convey an opinion. The column does not print poetry, announcements of community events or thank you letters. A writer or household may appear only once every 30 days. All letters are subject to fact-checking and editing.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News