Workers Can Be Fired For Using Pot Legally Off Duty, CO High Court Says


Employers’ zero-tolerance drug policies trump Colorado’s medical marijuana laws, says the Colorado Supreme Court. A 6-0 decision affirmed lower court rulings that businesses can fire employees for the use of medical marijuana, even if it’s off-duty, the Denver Post reports. With the ruling, which was a blow to some medical marijuana patients and a sigh of relief to employers, Colorado became the first state to provide guidance on a gray area of the law. The decision came nine months after the court heard arguments in Brandon Coats’ case against Dish Network. Coats became quadriplegic in a car accident and used marijuana to control leg spasms. He had a medical marijuana card and consumed pot off-duty. He was fired in 2010 after failing a random drug test.

Coats, who was a customer service representative for Dish, challenged the satellite TV company’s zero-tolerance drug policy, claiming that his use was legal under state law. The crux of the issue was whether the use of medical marijuana was legal under the state’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute. That term, the justices said, refers to activities lawful under both state and federal law. “Therefore, employees who engage in an activity, such as medical marijuana use, that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute,” wrote Justice Allison Eid.

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