Colorado Lawmakers Kill Bill to Protect Workers from Termination for Cannabis Use

A Colorado House Committee halted a bill that would have protected employees for off-the-clock recreational cannabis use and workday consumption by medical cannabis patients.

Full story after the jump.

A Colorado bill that would have provided protections for employees for using cannabis off the clock was quashed last month by the House Committee on Business Affairs & Labor, The Collegian reports. The measure would have prohibited employers from firing employees for their recreational cannabis use after work hours and their medical cannabis use during work hours.

The measure was replaced by a resolution to form a task force to study the issue of employment and medical cannabis use. The initial proposal was killed by the committee over concerns about safety, enforcement, and employers’ rights.

State Rep. Edie Hooton (D), the bill’s sponsor, said that “many Coloradans still maintain that ‘reefer madness’ attitude, and it does everyone a disservice.”

“I am very familiar with this community; I’ve worked with them for years. I have sympathy for them. I realize they have no voice at all at the capitol except for a handful of volunteer lobbyists, and they only have so much influence.” – Hooton to The Collegian

The measure conflicted with the rights of Colorado employers to enforce a drug-free workplace – a principle upheld in the 2015 Coats v. Dish Network case in which the state Supreme Court ruled that in the state statute prohibiting individuals from being terminated for lawful activities outside of work, the term “lawful” refers to activities under both state and federal law.

State Rep. Shannon Bird (D) told The Collegian that the case determined that medical cannabis patients “are not a protected class.”

“…So in a traditional employment relationship, the employer does get to set the terms and conditions of employment,” she said in the report.

Jess Kostelnik, government affairs manager for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, told The Collegian that the measure “jeopardizes a business’s ability to comply with federal law and maintain drug-free workplaces” which she said “could have far-reaching consequences for employers who do business with the federal government” and could put “into jeopardy hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal contracts flowing into the state of Colorado.”

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