In a decision widely anticipated by both employment lawyers and Cheetos enthusiasts alike, on June 15th, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that in spite of the state’s law making it legal to use marijuana, employers can fire workers who partake when they’re off the clock.
Brandon Coats brought the case against Dish Network. Coats became quadriplegic in a car accident and used marijuana to control leg spasms. He had a medical marijuana card and consumed pot off-duty. Dish fired him in 2010 after failing a random drug test. Coats then challenged Dish’s zero-tolerance drug policy, claiming that his use was legal under state law.
Both the trial court and the Colorado Court of Appeals previously upheld the firing. In a 6-0 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed, ruling that the use of medical marijuana in compliance with Colorado's Medical Marijuana Amendment was not “lawful” under the state’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, because that term refers to refers to activities lawful under both state and federal law. Implicitly, the decision also recognizes the continuing right of employers to set their own drug policies, obviously subject to existing state and federal law.