Colorado courts uphold worker termination for medical use

Posted on June 16th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

ColoradoThe Colorado Supreme Court on June 15 unanimously upheld a lower court decision that employers' "zero tolerance" drug policies are not pre-empted by the state's medical marijuana law. The court held that an employee can legally be fired for consuming cannabis off-duty, finding that the state's  statute on "lawful off-duty activitie"s implies that "lawful" is intended to protect only those activities permissible under both state and federal law. The opinion emphasizes that "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." Colorado law permits employers to implement drug policies of their choosing, with many opting to drop THC from pre-employment drug screening.

The case involved Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who was fired by Dish Network (DISH) in 2010 after he failed a company drug test for cannabis. Coats had a doctor's authorization to use medical marijuana, which has been legal in Colorado since 2000. Coats says that he never used the herb, or was under its influence, at work—facts that DISH does not dispute. (Jurist, June 16; CNN Money, June 15)

In 2011, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that a Denver street sweeper who tested positive on a drug test is not entitled to unemployment benefits—despite the fact that he is a state-recognized medical cannabis user. ​Jason Beinor had a doctor's note allowing him to legally purchase and use cannabis, which he says helped him lose weight, get off alcohol, and generally improve his life. In 2012, the state Supreme Court declined to review his case, letting the decision stand. (Westworld, June 1, 2012)


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