Loading

Colorado: Supreme Court Affirms Employees Can Be Fired For Off-The-Job Marijuana Use

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 15, 2015

    Members of the Colorado Supreme Court have unanimously affirmed lower courts’ rulings that employers possess the authority to fire employees for their off-the-job use of marijuana. The Court found that the plant’s legal status under state law does not make the act of consuming cannabis “lawful” under the state’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute.

    The Justices opined, “The supreme court holds that under the plain language of section 24-34-402.5, C.R.S. (2014), Colorado’s ‘lawful activities statute,’ the term ‘lawful’ refers only to those activities that are 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.”

    The ruling upholds the decision by Dish Network in 2010 to fire employee Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who used cannabis to treat muscle spasticity. Coats failed a random urine screen. Such tests identify the presence of the inert metabolite (byproduct) carboxy-THC, which may be present in urine for weeks or even months after one has ceased using the substance. Consequently, the Justice Department acknowledges, “A positive test result, even when confirmed, only indicates that a particular substance is present in the test subject’s body tissue. It does not indicate abuse or addiction; recency, frequency, or amount of use; or impairment.”

    The Colorado decision mirrors those of courts in California, Oregon, and Washington — each of which similarly determined that state laws exempting marijuana consumers from criminal liability do not extend to civil protections in the workplace.

    According to a study published last year in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, employees who test positive for carboxy-THC do not possess an elevated risk of workplace accident compared to employees who test negative.

    Full text of the decision, Coats v. Dish Network, is here.

    44 Responses to “Colorado: Supreme Court Affirms Employees Can Be Fired For Off-The-Job Marijuana Use”

    1. TheOracle says:

      The injustice upheld. Unfortunately. The feds definitely need to undo prohibition.

    2. Miles says:

      “do not possess an elevated risk of workplace accident”

      Truly, I think this says it all! They don’t care about that. They care about enforcing their misplaced predjudices and if that means hurting someone like Mr. Coats, then so be it.

      I am more than a little tempted to sever my ties with Dish Network but I am sure it would do no good… I wonder if they, or Walmart, have the slightest clue how many of their customers use cannabis.

    3. Ryan says:

      There is an “lawful off duty activity statute”. Who the hell do these people think they are. They are all going to whatever they think hell is

    4. Kurt VON ZECH says:

      SO after reading this if you smoke or consume marijuana either for medicinal or recreational purposes and do not ask your lawmakers where they stand, ?? And if they will introduce new laws that make it legal to use marijuana under FEDERAL LAW AND DO NOT VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE WITH ALL YOUR LIKE MINDED FRIENDS !!!. THEN YOU DESERVE TO GO TO JAIL OR LOSE YOUR JOB WHEN CAUGHT USING MARIJUANA …
      YOU ARE A LAZY HYPOCRITE WHINER CRY BABY . VOTE FOR SENSIBLE ,REASONABLE LAWMAKERS ,NOT PARTY LINE JOKE CANIDATES …
      THIS IS NOT A POPULARITY CONTEST ,THESE LAWMAKERS ARE RUINING YOUR COUNTRY !!!!
      VOTING IS NOT ABOUT KEEPING ALL YOUR FRIENDS HAPPY BECAUSE YOU ARE AFRAID OF NOT BEING POPULAR WITH THEM <ITS ABOUT YOUR COUNTRY .
      GET INVOLVED,READ AND GET THE FACTS !!! OR STFU AND QUIT COMPLAINING !!!!

    5. Marjie says:

      Let’s do this for ALCOHOL TOO!!!!!!!

    6. Anonymous says:

      So essentially, to enjoy the legalization of the drug whether it be recreational or medicinal, you must be unemployed. Or I suppose you can find a job where an employer does not care for your use of the drug but these cases are rare in my experience. This is nonsense and needs to be reviewed if we are to move forward with the legalization movement.

    7. mexweed says:

      “Former” employees whose hands are viable should consider self-employed handwork options including making the flexible drawtube one-hitters which will soon replace BOTH machine-rolled, cashier-retailed tobacco $igarettes and hot burning overdose monoxide Joints. Form a manufacturing workshop cooperative in your neighborhood AND make money running seminars teaching craigslistrecruited customers how to make the product (see free wiki article “Make Pipes from Everyday Objects”).

    8. Dudleed says:

      I think most of us would agree with a drug-free workplace. The central point of most of these arguments is privacy in the home. How can a state supreme judge rule on anything but the interpretation of state laws. Clearly they are prohibitionists ignoring the laws of their state. Maybe a place to start is to push for allowing only saliva drug testing to be used. Cannabis detection times are on the order of 5 to 48 hours. That is closer to reasonable. I hope this becomes impetus for SCOTUS ruling or our national congressmen to get of their ****and do something that “the people” demand.

    9. Steve says:

      This shows another reason why federal legalization is important…if cannabis were federally legal, the court decision would have been different.

    10. Julian says:

      If an employer can’t figure out that drug testing for marijuana in urine, hair or blood does not measure weather one is currently intoxicated by marijuana is irrelevant to the fact that I can find another client for my further employment who is willing and reasonable to negotiate more important business.

    Leave a Reply