A Colorado court ruled on April 25 that employers can still terminate workers who test positive for marijuana use, even though the state has medical and recreational marijuana laws.
In its 2-1 conclusion involving the case of a medical marijuana patient, the Colorado Court of Appeals found there is no employment protection for people who use medical marijuana in the state as the drug remains illegal under federal laws.
Brandon Coats, a telephone operator for the Colorado-based Dish Network LLC, was paralyzed in a car crash as a teenager. He has been using medical marijuana since 2009 to deal with debilitating muscle spasms. In 2011, he was fired after failing a drug test, though his employer didn’t claim he was ever impaired on the job.
“I’m not going to get better anytime soon,” Coats told the Associated Press. “I need the marijuana, and I don’t want to go the rest of my life without holding a job.”
According to the court, an activity is deemed legal in Colorado if it is “permitted by, and not contrary to, both state and federal law.”
Dish Network did not issue any comment on the ruling, but Coats’ lawyer, Michael Evans, said in a statement that it “has wide implications for Colorado marijuana laws.”
“This case not only impacts Mr. Coats, but also some 127,816 medical marijuana patient-employees in Colorado who could be summarily terminated even if they are in legal compliance with Colorado state law,” said Evans, who plans to ask Colorado’s Supreme Court to review the case.
Meanwhile, the Marijuana Policy Project, has been disappointed with the outcome of Coats’ case.
Morgan Fox, spokesman for MPP in Washington, called the ruling a setback, saying it appears to be limited to state law and did not consider the provisions under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.