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Colorado court says workers can be fired for marijuana use, even though it’s legal

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Los Angeles City Council Votes To Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

(File photo/David McNew/Getty Images)

NEW YORK  — Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled Monday employers can fire workers who use marijuana for medical reasons, even though it’s legal in that state.

The case involved Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who was fired by Dish Network in 2010 after he failed a company drug test for pot.

Coats had a doctor’s authorization to smoke medical marijuana, which has been legal in Colorado since 2000. Coats says that he never used the drug — or was under its influence — at work, facts that Dish Network does not dispute.

But the company says it has a zero-tolerance drug policy, and notes that medical marijuana is still illegal on the federal level. Therefore, Dish says the use of the drug for any reason is cause for termination.

The court ruled that a Colorado law which protects employees from being discharged for “lawful activities” refers to only activities which are legal 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,” said the court’s decision.

Colorado has since legalized marijuana for recreational use, although that law states that businesses can still prohibit marijuana use by their employees.

While the case applies only to Colorado, it could have broader legal implications for other states moving to legalize the drug for either medical or recreational use despite federal law.

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  • Ed Bland

    I am “HONORING” my word so I may return. The pain I endure from my wreck I do not speak about. I put ribs into both lungs. The whole reason that I concentrated on making GOLD is to PROVE 2 things. ONE : THC & CBD’s heal brains. How else could a “registered” 5.5 brain injured guy do this?
    TWO : The USA could become debt free & electricity could be free !

  • Magnus

    Class, This here is what is called precedent for future court cases. Just because something is legal on a state level, does not mean it is legal on a federal level. As many labor laws fall under federal jurisdiction, it is no surprise when cases such as this occur.

  • Summer Hemphill

    Anyone who is outraged by this ruling should demonstrate their anger by cancelling their Dish Network service (if they haven’t already done so) & taking their business to one of their competitors. No one who enjoys the myriad benefits of cannabis consumption should ever give these hare-brained,hidebound,holier-than-thou halfwits one penny of their hard-earned money. Tell your family,friends,neighbors & co-workers to act immediately & BOYCOTT the DISH NETWORK !!!

  • Scott Swanson

    Pot is still a Federally restricted drug. Regardless of whether states have “legalized” it you are still committing a federal drug crime by consuming, owning, growing, selling, distributing, Pot.
    I don’t smoke it, and voted in WA FOR legalization. But companies set their own employment standards and saying they won’t employ people who test positive for Pot is their choice.

  • Derek

    It is illegal under federal law. States cannot override federal law. It is not legal in WA or CO because states say so.
    Just wait to a person living in an apartment complex sues the owner due to pot smell. (due to neighbor smoking) The person will sue in federal court and win. Easy lawsuit.

  • Jim Trimble

    Of course they should have the right to fire him. He has drugs in his system. It is federally illegal to use and impairs the user. It is unfair to the employer as well as a risk to allow employees under the influence to be in the workplace. Simple as that – besides on a side note, its hard enough to talk to clear headed Dish Network employees, but conversing with a stoned one when you have a problem?? lol…

  • AbigailDBerg

    >>>my classmate’s mother makes $70 an hour on the laptop . She has been fired from work for 5 months but last month her check was $21263 just working on the laptop for a few hours. original site>>>>> Read More