Colorado Supreme Court Upholds Right of Employers to Fire Cannabis Users, Even MMJ Patients

The Colorado Supreme Court unanimously upheld decisions by lower courts that allow employers to fire employees for off-the-clock medical marijuana use. According to the state’s lawful off-duty activities statute, an activity must be legal under both state and federal law in order for an employee to be protected.

The case involved Brandon Coats, who brought a suit against his former employer, Dish Network, after being fired for testing positive for THC. Coats is a quadriplegic who uses medical marijuana to treat spasms and debilitating seizures that resulted from a car accident. He worked as a service representative for three years at Dish before being fired.

The case highlights the lack of protections that are extended to individuals who use marijuana in states where the drug has been legalized.

“It’s now painfully clear that something akin to a medical marijuana bill of rights is needed for patients in Colorado,” said Art Way, director of the Drug Policy Alliance in Colorado. “Patients, advocates and legislators must find a way to extend the rights of patients and legal adult marijuana users when it comes to employment, housing and parental rights.”

Currently only three states — Arizona, Delaware and Minnesota — prohibit employers from disciplining employees who test positive for THC if they are medical marijuana cardholders.


Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall

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