NY park ranger loses job, denied law enforcement positions over pot text

A Long Island man claims he was turned down from jobs in law enforcement and lost his position as a park ranger all because of a text message telling his wife not to smoke too much pot with her mom — who had a medical marijuana license.

“Everything has been stripped away from me, and I feel I’m never going to get ahead,” Nicholas Aponte, 32, of Hauppauge, told The Post.

“It’s almost scary for me to even apply for a job now.”

Aponte says he was unfairly forced out of his job as an Islip park ranger — which he held for less than a year — and denied jobs as an NYPD cop and a state trooper simply because of his association with his mother-in-law, who had a medical marijuana license, according to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit from Thursday.

The text message came to light during a 2019 vetting interview for the trooper position after Aponte already passed exams for the NYPD and state police, the court papers say.

Former Park Ranger Nicholas Aponte
Nicholas Aponte says he was fired as an Islip park ranger in 2019 and denied jobs in law enforcement because he texted his wife to not smoke too much weed with her mom.
Courtesy of John Scola

The investigator went through Aponte’s text messages and found one of him telling his wife Maria Aponte not to smoke too much weed with her mother, Maria Marro.

Marro has had a medical marijuana license since 2016, and uses the drug to help her cope with sleep apnea, depression and anxiety, the court papers say. Aponte and his wife were Marro’s caretakers, the court documents say.

Aponte — who already passed a drug test — told the investigator he doesn’t smoke marijuana, but the investigator told him he couldn’t become a state trooper because of the message, the filing alleges.

“I’m passing everything; I’m qualified to do the job; I passed my drug test and he said, ‘Give me your phone,’” Aponte recalled.

Aponte said he handed his phone over thinking, “I have nothing to hide.”

“I don’t do drugs … what do I have to lose?” Aponte said of the incident. “And at that point, marijuana has been decriminalized and the following year it’s put on the bill to legalize it.”

Cannabis was made legal in New York in March 2021 and the first licensed pot shop opened up in the state on Dec. 29, 2022.

Nicholas Aponte and wife Maria Aponte
Aponte says it’s been a lifelong dream of his to be a cop and now getting a job is impossible.
Courtesy of John Scola

Aponte said he stopped using marijuana when he passed his public service exams in 2016 and 2017, and he hasn’t smoked since.

“I didn’t smoke,” at the time of the state trooper interview, he said. “I still don’t smoke.”

The investigator assured Aponte his park ranger job wouldn’t be jeopardized.

But a month later, on Dec. 17, 2019, Aponte was forced to resign as a park ranger after he was told he had to either step down or he would be fired — after the state contacted the town of Islip informing them of the text message, the suit alleges.

Then on Feb. 14, 2022, while Aponte was being vetted for a job with the NYPD, the department called the Islip park rangers. The agency told the NYPD investigator that Aponte was fired because of drug use and wouldn’t recommend him to the job, the court papers say.

Nicholas Aponte
Aponte says he just wants his “named cleared” so he can get a better job.
Courtesy of John Scola

Aponte was again denied the job because of the allegedly defamatory statement and because the NYPD “failed to inquire about the actual events surrounding [Aponte’s] resignation,” the suit alleges.

Aponte has brought claims against the city, state and town of Islip for discrimination based on his association with his mother-in-law, a disabled person. He claims he’s a victim of caretaker discrimination.

“Plaintiff was qualified for his employment with the defendant state and was denied employment after the defendant state [determined] that as caretaker for his mother-in-law [who] uses medical marijuana to treat her disability, he was somehow unfit for duty,” the suit claims.

Aponte said he still wants to work in law enforcement and would gladly take his park ranger job back.

Nicholas and Maria Aponte.
Aponte and his wife Maria are the caretakers for her mother, who has a medical marijuana license.
Courtesy of John Scola

“I still want to better myself. I want to step up in life. I want to be able to go back to some type of normalcy and feel like I can apply for a job and not be afraid of what’s going to come next,” he said.

“I feel like it’s haunting me forever.”

Aponte — who currently works for a cesspool company — said he’s trying to get a job with the Long Island Rail Road, but he’s worried he will run into the same problem again.

“I want my name cleared,” he said.

Aponte’s lawyer John Scola told The Post: “The state, city and the town of Islip each applied archaic sensibilities in refusing my client employment based on his mother-in-law’s use of medical marijuana to treat her disability.

“This type of disability association and caretaker discrimination is against the law, and we hope that through this lawsuit, Mr. Aponte will be able to accomplish his dream of serving the public.”

A spokesperson with the Town of Islip said: “It’s the town’s policy not to discuss personnel matters.” And the NYPD said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The city Law Department and the state Attorney General’s Office didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Craig McCarthy

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