With the legalization of marijuana usage in Colorado comes a myriad of other issues. Just because it was legalized does not mean there aren’t any major restrictions to the usage.
The Denver Post recently highlighted a hot issue: how do you set restrictions in the workplace? The subject came up again due to the firing of Brandon Coats, a medical- marijuana patient working for a satellite television company (Coats v. Dish Network, L.L.C., 2013 COA 62 – 12CA0595 & 12CA1704). Coats, a quadriplegic, was working for Dish Network in 2010 when he failed a random drug test. While there was no evidence that he was impaired while working, he was fired from his position.
The Colorado Lawful Off-Duty Activities statute protects employees from being fired for legal activities they participate in outside the office, like smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, as long as their work is not affected. So, would marijuana usage be protected under that as well? That is what Brandon Coats argued.
However, the state attorney general and the Colorado Court of Appeals say no. They hold that employees can be fired for marijuana usage. If employers have a zero-tolerance policy, they can be positive that their employees will be competent to work.
The attorney general claims that if employers did not have this zero tolerance policy, there would have to be frequent investigations in order to ensure competency of the workers. How else would the employer know if their workers were stoned on the job or not?
What does this ruling mean for medical-marijuana patients? How will these people be hired and/or keep their positions? If employers can fire a patient for the usage, what does Amendment 64 even do for a medical-marijuana user?
At Hunsaker | Emmi, P.C., we want to know what you think. Where should this line be drawn?