Colorado Supreme Court to Rule On Whether Employers Can Fire Workers Who Legally Use Pot Off the Job

In this April 25, 2013 photo, attorney Michael Evans, left, listens in his office in Denver as his client Brandon Coats talks about the Colorado Court of Appeals ruling that upheld Coats being fired from his job after testing positive for the use of medical marijuana. (Ed Andrieski/AP)
In this April 25, 2013 photo, attorney Michael Evans, left, listens in his office in Denver as his client Brandon Coats talks about the Colorado Court of Appeals ruling that upheld Coats being fired from his job after testing positive for the use of medical marijuana. (Ed Andrieski/AP)

The Colorado Supreme Court is scheduled to issue a ruling on Monday about whether employees like Brandon Coats can be fired for using marijuana while off-duty.

The case could be pivotal in clarifying the relationship between state laws that support marijuana use, and federal laws that consider its use illegal.

Mr. Coats is a quadriplegic who has used medical marijuana at home to help control seizures since 2009. He was fired from his job as a Dish Network customer service representative in 2010 after a cheek swab drug test found inactive THC metabolites in his system. Coats says he never used marijuana while at work, but Dish Network’s zero-tolerance policy against illegal drug use resulted in his termination nonetheless.

Coats’s attorneys argue that his use of marijuana as medicine is legal under Colorado state law, and that consuming it should therefore be treated like any other legal substance. They are challenging his termination under the Colorado Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, which says that employees cannot be fired for doing things off the clock that are legal.

Attorneys for Dish and the state say that despite its legal status in Colorado, marijuana cannot be considered “lawful” due to the fact that both medical and recreational marijuana use are still illegal under federal law.

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SOURCE: Gretel Kauffman
Christian Science Monitor

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