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Colorado Supreme Court Rules That Employers Can Fire Employees for Off-Duty Medical Marijuana Use

Emanuel Shirazi

Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic, was fired from his job at Dish Network after failing a random drug test in 2010. Coats was a customer service representative for Dish and consumed pot off-duty (with a medical marijuana card) to control his muscle spasms.

The Colorado Supreme Court recently ruled in a 6-0 decision that an employers’ zero-tolerance drug policy is superior to Colorado’s medical marijuana laws. Because the use of medical marijuana is not lawful under federal law (only state), employees who engage in medical marijuana usage are not protected. Employers have the freedom to set their own drug policies in the state of Colorado.

Up until now, this has been a particularly gray area of the law in states that allow medical marijuana usage. Colorado is the first to shine some light on the subject.

After the ruling, Dish Network released this statement: “We are pleased with the outcome of the court’s decision today. As a national employer, Dish remains committed to a drug-free workplace and compliance with federal law.” Not everyone, including Coats (who is currently unemployed) is happy with the outcome of the five year battle.

According to the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 Substance meaning that marijuana has “no medical accepted use, a high risk of abuse, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”

Do you think that the Colorado Supreme Court made the right decision? Do you think this could have been a disability discrimination claim if no drug test was failed?

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