CO Court Puzzle: If Medical Pot Is Legal, Can You Be Fired For Using It?


A Colorado Supreme Court hearing that will have major implications for marijuana and the workplace ended with the justices mostly scratching their heads, reports the Denver Post. The topic was this: If it isn't illegal to use medical marijuana, does that make it a “lawful” activity for which employers can't fire you? How the justices answer that question will, for the first time, define whether employers must tolerate medical-marijuana use by their employees and also set whether medical-marijuana patients have any job protection for their cannabis use. The outcome also has implications for recreational marijuana use, which presents similar questions.

An attorney for a quadriplegic man named Brandon Coats, who was fired for medical-marijuana use, said if the justices rule strictly against patients, “that means our medical-marijuana amendment is really just for the unemployed.” Coats attorney Michael Evans and an attorney for Dish Network, the company that fired Coats, sparred over the issue. Coats challenged his dismissal under a law called the Colorado Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute. The law protects employees from termination for doing things off-the-clock that are legal. But is medical marijuana, which Colorado voters approved in 2000 but is illegal federally, actually “lawful”?

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