As reported by Joe Palazzolo of the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Colorado’s Supreme Court recently heard arguments on whether an employer can lawfully terminate an employee for off-the-job use of medical marijuana.
The case is Coats v. Dish Network, L.L.C. The plaintiff, Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic licensed by the State of Colorado to use medical marijuana, was discharged by Dish Network after having failed a company drug test. According to the plaintiff, however, he had used marijuana within the limits of his state license, never used the drug on company premises, and was not under the influence at work at any time. The plaintiff therefore claimed that the company had terminated his employment in violation of Colorado’s “off-duty conduct law,” which allows employees to “engage in any lawful activity off the premises of the employer during nonworking hours.”
Colorado courts have disagreed with the plaintiff thus far, however, dismissing his complaint at every turn. Though Colorado is only one of two states to have legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes, the drug remains illegal under federal law. It is for this reason that Colorado’s district and appeals courts held that the plaintiff’s use of marijuana was not a “lawful activity” covered by Colorado’s off-duty conduct law.
Stay tuned to see what Colorado’s Supreme Court decides . . .