An NYPD officer with a slew of health issues was forced into early retirement because the department wouldn’t let him use medically prescribed marijuana to combat his chronic pain, new court papers allege.
Robert Cascalenda, who joined the force in 2008, says that he has a birth defect that makes him prone to getting pancreatitis when he takes prescription drugs.
But he ended up on painkillers Percocet, OxyContin, Hydrocodone, Tramadol and Morphine over the years to treat injuries suffered on and off the job — and because of conditions including Lyme Disease and fibromyalgia, his Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit explains.
Starting in 2016, the 37-year-old Staten Island man began having pancreatitis flare ups and he was diagnosed with depression in 2017 which landed him on restricted duty a year later, the court papers say.
Two doctors told him he needed to ween off the prescription pills because they could kill him, recommending marijuana to help cope with his pain instead, the court papers say.
He was even prescribed marijuana by an NYPD doctor in the Medical Division, the court documents say.
Soon after he started taking the drug, Cascalenda says he was monitored by the Internal Affairs Bureau and given a random drug test on Sept. 5, 2019 — which showed he had used pot, the court filing says.
Cascalenda was even held overnight and questioned by IAB –though afterward he was allowed to use marijuana for another month, the suit says.
But Cascalenda failed another random drug test on Oct. 29, 2019 — and the incident gave him a panic and asthma attack that landed him in a coma for seven days, court papers claim.
Cascalenda stayed in the hospital for a month — at which point he was also diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder. And the day after his release Nov. 22 he was suspended for a month for testing positive for pot the month prior, the court papers claim.
Cascalenda was forced to give up the weed prescription — and over the next year, he was sidelined at work and surveilled at his home by unmarked cop cars for months on end, the court documents claim.
IAB told him “if he wanted to stay out of trouble he would have to change his meds. [Cascalenda] interpreted this statement as he could stay out of trouble if he went back on opioids,” his lawsuit alleges.
Plagued with anxiety and pain and after being reassigned from the 120th Precinct to work in a cold dusty room in the Quartermaster Unit in Queens, Cascalenda put in for early retirement on disability and had his last day on the force on Sept. 17.
“I felt betrayed and extremely disappointed,” Cascalenda said in a statement to The Post. “I thought the job would be there for me after I almost died.”
“When I needed the NYPD most, they suspended and stripped me of my health insurance simply because I was prescribed a non-fatal alternative to opioids,” Cascalenda said.
“Plaintiff would have remained an NYPD officer if he was granted the reasonable accommodation allowing him to use his prescribed medical marijuana,” the court documents claim.
Cascalenda’s lawyer, John Scola, told The Post, “Internal Affairs tortured a disabled police officer after a NYPD doctor approved a non-life threatening alternative in marijuana.
“IAB would have preferred my client died, then allow him to fill his marijuana prescription.”
The city Law Department said, “We’ll review the case.”
NYPD spokesperson Jessica McRorie said “We will review the lawsuit if and when we are served.”
Additional reporting from Tina Moore
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