Colorado’s Supreme Court will decide whether workers can be fired for off-duty marijuana use. The case will determine whether workers can be punished for private marijuana consumption.
The case in Colorado’s highest court involves Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who is suing his former employer. Coats used medical marijuana, which Colorado voters voted to legalize in 2000.
Coats became disabled after he was in car accident. He said that using medical marijuana helps with his muscle spasms.
Coats was a worker for the Dish Network until he was fired after failing a drug test. Even though he said he never used the drug at work, Coats was dismissed under the company’s drug-free policy. He maintains that his off-duty pot use is legal under a Colorado law. The Colorado Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute protects workers from being fired for activities after work. The Dish Network said that since marijuana is illegal under federal law, Coats’ marijuana use is not covered under the state law.
Dish Network argued in court that the case is not about medical marijuana. “This case need not be an endorsement or an indictment of medical marijuana”, said Dish attorney Meghan Martinez. “It’s a zero-tolerance policy. It doesn’t matter if he was impaired or not.”
The lawsuit puts a spotlight on a conflicting aspect of the state’s marijuana laws and their impact on employers’ policies. Pot is legal in Colorado, but many employers don’t have policies permitting drug use.
The state constitution further complicates the issue. It says that employers don’t have to change their anti-drug policies when employees smoke medical marijuana.
” We’re getting very confused and mixed messages from everywhere,” said Michael Evans, Coats’ lawyer. Evans believes that the case will lead to more clear policies about employees’ drug use. “At a minimum,I think everyone is going to get clarification.”
Coats hopes winning this case will help end his chronic unemployment since the Dish Network fired him. “I’ve been having a hard time finding employment, said Coats. “I want to work.”