Brad Wiltshire doesn’t like to complain, but to talk to him is to understand how much pain he is in. Dystonia, the disorder that he was diagnosed with a decade ago, causes muscles in the 56-year-old’s face to fight against each other, so his voice is strained and agitated, even when he’s not.
When his employer, the Ocean City Fire Department, implemented a random drug-testing policy in 2015, Wiltshire asked to meet with his boss to discuss his medical condition and the way he had been treating it: with medical cannabis, which has been legal in New Jersey since 2010. During a meeting with his fire chief on October 9, 2015, after the new policy went into effect, Wiltshire explained that he used marijuana only while off-duty. The dystonia had never hindered his ability to fight fires, or his ability to communicate during an emergency, but searing tremors sometimes made it hurt to eat and speak, and he never knew when it would strike.
Jessica Kourkounis for BuzzFeed News
Brad Wiltshire at his home in Ocean City, New Jersey, on June 8, 2017.
In his 20 years on the job, which included taking part in recovery efforts after 9/11, Wiltshire never had disciplinary problems and he received sterling performance reviews. He also had a recommendation from his neurologist to use medical cannabis. So Wiltshire was confident his fire chief would be fine with his medical marijuana use. He was wrong. The chief suspended him immediately pending termination, leaving Wiltshire, a slender man with graying hair, stunned and hurt. He had trusted that he was doing the right thing when he told the truth, and now he faced losing the job he loved. His boss gave him one break: He’s allowing