The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday morning that employers can fire employees for having the presence of THC in their system even if they benefit on the medicinal plant uses at home off the clock.
This outcome deals a major setback for legalization proponents, and sets the precedent that Colorado State marijuana laws do not override federal law. The gray area has gotten bigger and the citizens are being pulled on from each limb with the federal and state authoritarians tugging on opposite ends. Restricting a free man to use his choice of medicine, terminating his employment for medicating himself is tyrannical.
This case battle was brought on by Brandon Coats, a 35-year-old quadriplegic who was fired by Dish Network Corp. after testing positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the primary component found in marijuana. Coats was issued a medical marijuana license by the state of Colorado so he was able to utilize the plant for his “violent” spasms.
The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that “The term ‘lawful’ refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law.” “Under Colorado’s ‘lawful activities statute,’ the term ‘lawful’ refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law,” the court’s opinion reads. “Employees who engage in an activity such as medical marijuana use that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected.”
Coats’ lawyer argued that his client should be protected from punishment for using cannabis as treatment through his legally obtained medical marijuana license.
Mr. Coats adamantly admits that he was never high during work hours, nonetheless Dish Network stood firm and argued that he was still in violation of their “zero tolerance” policy against drugs.
The court unanimously ruled against Coats in a 6-0 vote, because Cannabis is still illegal on a federal level. How nice of them to claim that they are a state of their own, and all of this state’s rights hype by thumbing their nose to D.C. then to hand down a ruling based solely on the Federal Governments opinion. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office who sided with Dish Network, said that if the justices ruled against the company, the decision “would have a profound and detrimental impact on employers in the state and simply put, zero tolerance policies provide businesses with an efficient means of avoiding difficult employment decisions and even litigation.”
In 2009 Colorado commercialized the sale of medical marijuana then in November of 2012, the state legalized marijuana for recreational use and in January of 2014, Colorado allowed for recreational cannabis retail stores. So even though the State issues you a license ‘that you pay for’ to use a beneficial medicine that’s legal within the state, you can lose your job for using it.
Dish Network released a statement to the press saying, “Dish Network is committed to its drug-free workplace policy and compliance with federal law, which does not permit the use of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes” An excerpt from Attorney Michael Evans: “For people like Brandon Coats, there really isn’t a “choice,” as MMJ is the only substance both he and his CO licensed physicians know of to control his seizures due to his quadriplegia. He has to have it.”
Brandon Coats quote: “Although I’m very disappointed today, I hope that my case has brought the issue of use of medical marijuana and employment to light. If we’re making marijuana legal for medical purposes we need to address issues that come along with it such as employment. Hopefully views on medical marijuana — like the ones in my specific case — will change soon.” The Cannabis Therapy Institute, an organization that has always warned about the legal ramifications in which medical marijuana patients fall under by Colorado law, has issued a heart-warming statement.
“This is a sad day for Colorado medical marijuana patients, who have now had no protection for off-duty use of medical or recreational marijuana. Amendment 20 and Amendment 64 were both written by the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group. Medical marijuana activists have been complaining for years that these laws were poorly written and that they give a false sense of security to anyone that relies on them. The blame for this failure clearly goes to MPP, the authors of Amendment 20. If they had wanted to create stronger rights for patients in Amendment 20, they could easily have done so. Instead, they included no rights for patients in A20, so patients had to rely on Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activity Statutes to protect them. Now that this protection has failed, patients have no protection for their use of medical marijuana as far as employment goes. The lesson is — just because a ballot initiative purports itself to be in favor of patients or “legalization” of medical marijuana, doesn’t mean that it actually protects patients. MPP has always been more concerned with putting profits over patients, and this Supreme Court decision proves that.” Attorney Rachel Gillette the executive director for the Colorado chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws executive director, attorney Rachel Gillette, offered the following statement:
“Drug testing of applicants or employees for marijuana use is bad for business. Commercial drug tests do not measure impairment or job performance. The Colorado workforce today includes countless qualified people like Brandon Coats who use marijuana legally for medicine or as their recreational drug of choice and are not impaired on the job.
Employers should hire or retain qualified people on merit, not the presence of trace metabolites in their bodily fluids. If any testing is to be done for risk management, NORML urges Colorado employers to
use currently-available impairment testing based upon reasonable suspicion that are specific for the job description.
Colorado law provides that it is a discriminatory or unfair employment practice to terminate an employee for lawful activity during non working hours. Marijuana is legal in Colorado for both medicinal and recreational use under our Constitution. The Supreme Court unfortunately did not respect the will of Colorado voters. Until federal law is changed, it will be up to the Colorado legislature or local governments to act to protect otherwise law-abiding citizens who use marijuana.
Since 1989, the City of Boulder has banned random drug testing by private employers. Testing can only be done for finalist candidates, or if there is individualized reasonable suspicion, based on specific, objective, clearly expressed facts, to believe that the employee is under the influence on the job, or his or her job performance is currently adversely affected. A state law such as this, with an added requirement for actual impairment testing, would protect Colorado workers from discrimination based upon their lawful off-job use of marijuana.”
A Pro Liberty, Pro Freedom, Human Rights Activist, very involved in a wide variety of Activism and Exposing the Truth at all costs.
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