Colorado Appeals Court Rules Employers Can Fire Marijuana Users

Colorado Appeals Court Rules Employers Can Fire Marijuana Users

DENVER, CO — Colorado employers can legally fire marijuana users from their jobs, the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in a 2-1 decision. Although the case was brought by a medical marijuana user, the ruling will have any even broader impact given that the state has now legalized marijuana for all adults.

The case was Coats v. Dish Network LLC, in which Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic telephone operator for Dish Network and registered medical marijuana patient, was fired by Dish Network after testing positive for marijuana during a drug test. Paralyzed by a car crash as a teen, Coats had been a registered patient since 2009. Dish Network cited no other reason for firing Coats other than his positive drug test result.

Coats challenged his firing, citing Colorado’s Lawful Activities statute, which prohibits employers from firing workers for “engaging in any legal activity off the premises of the employer during nonworking hours.” But both the trial court and now the appeals court rejected his challenge, holding that because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the Lawful Activities statute does not apply.

“For an activity to be lawful in Colorado, it must be permitted by, and not contrary to, both state and federal law,” the appeals court said.

Judge John Webb dissented, saying he could not find a case addressing whether Colorado judges must consider federal law in determining the meaning of the Colorado statute.

Coats’ attorney, Michael Evans, said in a statement that the ruling will have a broad impact in the state.

“This case not only impacts Mr. Coats, but also some 127,816 medical marijuana patient-employees in Colorado who could be summarily terminated even if they are in legal compliance with Colorado state law,” Evans said.

And with adult marijuana legalization now in place in the state, it is not just medical marijuana users who stand to be affected.

The ruling is expected to be appealed.

Similar rulings allowing employers to fire medical marijuana users have been upheld by courts in other states, including California, Michigan, and Montana.

  • Mike

    So the court really believes that a majority of Coloradans voted to become second-class citizens — say maybe 3/5ths of a citizen? — when they legalized marijuana?

    This is about as an egregious a case of “judicial activism” as I’ve heard of. Disgusting.

  • Vern

    Total B.S.

    Although, by allowing elected officials to remain in office “we” create our own problems ….
    Politics & money= wins – over the will of the people in most cases..

    Like the senator who was 1000% against gay rights for 10 years as a elected official – until his son declared he is gay, now he supports gay rights.

    Our politicians move too slow until things directly effect them.
    Urge your US representative to pass legislation protecting medical patients.

    legalization is different from people who use it for medical reasons…

    If your elected officials do not support or uphold the laws of your state, they need to go BYE-BYE next election..
    California senator Dianne Feinstein supports federal laws over her state medical marijuana laws and does not support federal change in policies concerning her state medical marijuana patients. She wrote me a letter explaining until federal law changes she will not support marijuana use – period, whether medical or not.
    her need to go or things will never change..

    • Mike

      Senator Feinstein has been around long enough to know you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. Looks like she prefers being the problem, as she is one of those holding this lever of power. Voters should react accordingly.

    • RockyMissouri

      Feinstein does need to go. If they are standing in the way of the legal will of the people.. We lose faith in them.

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