The Colorado Supreme Court recently upheld a decision that businesses may fire employees for off-job medical marijuana use. The unanimous 6-0 decision halted enthusiasm from marijuana proponents, but clarified a business’ right to create and enforce its own drug policies.
The case sprang from an incident involving Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who answered customer service calls for Dish Network. Coats was fired back in 2010 for failing a drug test due to off-the-job medical marijuana use. His use of the substance was legal by state standards, however federal law complicated the issue.
Coats and his attorneys made the case that Coats was protected under Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute. The case was heard by trial court and Colorado’s Court of Appeals before going to the state’s Supreme Court. There, Colorado’s Supreme Court interpreted the term “lawful” in the state’s Lawful Activities Statute by both state and federal standards. Medical marijuana being illegal under federal regulations allowed for Dish Network’s action to fire Coats to hold up.
The state of Colorado followed the case closely, knowing that the implications from the decision would have broad effects on employer-employee rights. Likewise, other state’s looked on as the decision set a precedent for states that are currently working to make medical marijuana legal and considering the legalization of recreational marijuana.
The decision ultimately allows businesses to create their own drug policies. Medical marijuana users, such as Coats, may still find employment and legally consume the substance, but they’ll have to find employers with more lenient drug policies.
Knowing that this case is a state issue, Coats and his attorneys have no intention of taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
For now, use of medical marijuana can be cause for termination at work. Be aware that if you are injured on the job and a drug test is required, use of medical marijuana can get you fired or be used to deny part of your workers’ compensation coverage. Know your rights when using medical marijuana.
And if you are having difficulty obtaining your workers’ compensation benefits, you’ll need to consult with a workers’ comp lawyer to determine your legal rights and protections. Contact us if you are employed in Denver, Aurora or the state of Colorado for more information.