A landmark case involving the termination of an employee for the use of medical marijuana was recently heard before the Colorado Supreme Court. While the Denver Post reports that the ruling on the issue may take weeks, the court’s decision could have widespread implications in terms of an employee’s right to use medical marijuana while off-duty.
The case involves Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic medical marijuana patient who was fired from his job at Dish Network in 2010. Last year, a Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that state-licensed medical cannabis use was not “lawful activity,” as it would also need to comply with federal law which doesn’t allow cannabis use in any form. Coats argued that he was never under the influence of marijuana at work and should be protected by the Colorado’s Lawful Activities Statute. While subject to exceptions, the state statute prohibits an employer from discharging an employee for “engaging in any lawful activity off premises of the employer during nonworking hours.”
The case heard before the Colorado Supreme Court will determine if cannabis — which is available both medically and for adult-use in Colorado — is “lawful” even though it remains prohibited by federal law. A regular cannabis user’s urine will test positive for weeks after use, NORML explains, while also noting urine testing can’t test a person’s impairment as it doesn’t measure cannabis’ psychoactive component, THC.
“Mr. Coats was never accused or suspected of being under the influence and received satisfactory performance reviews all three years,” Coats’ attorney Michael Evans said in court. “He was fired after an unknown type or amount of THC was found after a mouth swab test. Dish knew he was a medical marijuana patient. The mere presence of THC is not proof of impairment.”
What do you think? Should employee’s be fired for using cannabis off the clock? Tell us in the comments below.