Colorado, HR News, Human Resources

You’re Fired! Medical Marijuana Use Challenged

Dancing with Mary Jane?

We all know that Colorado is known for having legalized marijuana that is used recreationally or medically since the winter of 2012.  In the business world, Colorado has laws that do not allow employers from terminating employees for enacting lawful activities outside of work.  However, let’s decipher the following case that occurred in mid-June of this year.

Medical Marijuana - Words and Leaf IconCoats v. Dish Network – Katharine H. Parker and Daniel L. Saperstein of Proskauer Rose LLP highlighted the case below.

A quadriplegic (someone who is permanently unable to move or feel both arms and both legs due to an injury or an illness) employee, who is confined to a wheelchair, obtained a state-issued license in order to use medical marijuana since he suffers from muscle spasms.  The wonder herb, medical marijuana, helps calm them down.

So what’s the issue?
Dish Network is clearly aware of his condition, however, despite his explanation of using medical marijuana to treat his condition, this employee was required to take a random company drug test.  Upon seeing that marijuana was tested positive, they fired him.

But he made them aware of this and has a state-issued license to do so… right?

That he did.  However, any marijuana use, recreational, or in this case, medical, was not constituted as a ‘lawful activity’ outside of the workplace since lawful activities must be lawful in both state and federal laws.  Medical Marijuana use may be lawful under state law, but it is unlawful under federal law and the company argued on that stance.  The Supreme Court of Colorado was also in agreement with Dish Network and this employee, unfortunately, ended up in a dead end with his argument.

There are more and more states legalizing the selling of marijuana.  This means that laws are ever changing to adapt to new policies and procedures – especially drug-related ones.  If your company is anti-drug despite an employee’s medical state, you will have to make your policies very clear to all employees in order to avoid a lawsuit.

Until Next Time, Be Audit-Secure!

Lisa Smith


Lisa Smith is CEO of Andere Seminars, LLC and Chief Content Developer at BeAuditSecure.com. Follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, listen to her Small Business Spoonfuls Podcast, and find more from her in Audit-Secure Authority at BeAuditSecure.com.

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  • Keep them coming! We have been focusing our safety meetings on drugs in the workplace. They just don’t belong on a construction site, no matter what the situation. All of our employees have signed they have read and understand we have no tolerance for drugs of any kind for any reason on the jobsite. Thank you!

    September 14, 2015 at 9:40 pm
    • Lisa Smith says:

      Thanks Stacey!
      I love hearing from responsible employers. Keep up the good work!

      September 15, 2015 at 8:11 am

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