Pot use in Colorado can still get you fired

A court says companies can terminate employees for legal medical or recreational marijuana use because it remains illegal under federal law.

By Jason Notte Apr 26, 2013 2:54PM
A medicinal marijuana user smokes at the Berkeley Patients Group in Berkeley, Calif., on March 25, 2010 (© Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)Why do folks in Colorado and Washington state who voted to legalize recreational marijuana use remain paranoid about lighting up? Because they can still get fired for it.

The Colorado Court of Appeals just harshed everyone's buzz on Friday, when it ruled 2-1 that there's no employment protection for medical marijuana users in the state because the federal government still considers the drug illegal. That's bad news for Brandon Coats of Englewood, Colo., a former Dish Network (DISH) phone operator who opened the case by suing for wrongful termination after failing a company drug test in 2010.

Coats was paralyzed in a car crash as a teenager and has been a medical marijuana patient in the state since 2009. Dish Network actually never claimed Coats was impaired on the job. This follows a Washington state Supreme Court ruling that found workers can be fired for using marijuana, even if authorized by the state's medical marijuana law. But these rulings only further muddle the national patchwork of medical and recreational marijuana usage and drug-testing laws.

The number of American workers who are unemployed because they can't pass a drug test has risen 5.7% since 2007. While marijuana is the most common drug found in employee testing, it showed up in only 68,000 of the 3.4 million drug tests conducted last year.

Still, employers have been loath to let even medicinal marijuana use slide, citing federal law. In September, an appeals court ruled that a Wal-Mart (WMT) in Battle Creek, Mich., had the legal right to fire an employee who was prescribed medical marijuana for his cancer and inoperable brain tumor.

Colorado's Amendment 64 already allowed employers to ban marijuana in the workplace and implement policies restricting their employees' cannabis use. The latest ruling just knocks down the protection for marijuana use as a legal, off-duty activity. That puts increasingly progressive Colorado at odds with typically conservative Arizona, where workers cannot be terminated for lawfully using medical marijuana, unless it would jeopardize an employer's federal licensing or contracts.

There's a chance Colorado could consider a similar workaround in the future, but right now its medical marijuana users are facing the same issues as its 420 partygoers. What they're doing is "legal," but it's not yet legal.

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Apr 26, 2013 5:46PM

So lets look at a potential scenario. John Doe goes to work and does a great job. He's always on time, always produces, never a ****, never intoxicated on the job, well liked by others. Why does anyone want to make him take a piss test?

1. drug testing provides a Tax incentive for the company?

2. Family member of the boss needs a job?

3. Employee has a pony tail?

4. Someone has a vested interest in ratting out John Doe?




Its a bullsh!t law in the first place, based on racism and greed.


It's funny how alcohol prohibition lasted only 10 years. That's because alcohol fuels violence and if booze had stayed illegal much longer, there would have been a civil war.


But pot smokers are never a violent bunch, and thus they pose no threat to the corrupt laws which they are forced to submit. 78 years and counting folks......when is your civil war going to happen?


It's sad that issues like gun control and gay marraige get more attention than the greatest social injustice since slavery - marijuana prohibition.



Apr 26, 2013 8:46PM
fine now let's fire all users of alcohol.
Apr 26, 2013 7:23PM

It is sad when we make laws that contradict each other and the average citizen is in the middle.  What struck me most was the part about Walmart FIRING someone who was smoking (medically) because he had inoperable BRAIN TUMOR and CANCER.  Wow...... where is the humanity in all of this?

Apr 26, 2013 5:02PM

First off if you understood what our country is all about it is about State rights, the right of the states to govern themselves, not to have the rights of their citizens trumped by the Federal government.  You are right that federal law trumps state law, but it is a broken system in this aspect.  

Laws which criminalize the use of marihuana are from a time when racist elements ruled the country, as well as special interests to keep hemp off the retail market. 

There is no scientific evidence linking marijuana to any health risk, dangers or death.  Just the opposite is found by scientists in Israel, where the plant has been studied for years and other countries for its medicinal properties. 

Besides this "War on Drugs," which has cost you, me and our children's children hundreds of millions of dollars and resulted in our nation being the only one to have over 1,000,000 of its citizens locked up, for what gain?   

Apr 26, 2013 5:45PM
Great so now you will have a bunch of high people living off welfare because you just fired them all.
Apr 26, 2013 10:06PM
Drug testing is money.....the money hungry will continue to push drug testing because it's jobs and sales for them...it's all about who you know...somebody involved in the drug testing industry started crying to someone in power (probably Dad) they would loose money. It doesn't make sense. those who do cocaine and other hard dangerous drugs have a clean system in 48 hours...but if you smoke pot it takes 30 days to get a clean system naturally. This is the most  asinine BS out there.
It gets you high....can't get HIGH at work so whats the problem?
Apr 26, 2013 6:38PM
Companys who fire pot smokers should be boycotted. NORML, how about putting a list together for us?
Apr 26, 2013 5:55PM
How many millions in the workforce have kept their jobs while smoking pot when it was illegal?  That's not going to suddently change because it's legal.  Those same millions know how to get around the drug tests.
Apr 28, 2013 1:41AM
Oh, you can take prescription opiates and work, but can't take prescription pot and work, that's the pot calling the kettle black. When's society going to wake up to reality and stay out of folks private lives. As long as their job evaluation is satisfactory, who gives a $hit what a person does in their private lives. I sure as h*ll don't.
Apr 27, 2013 12:19PM

U people suck!!  I get the comment about firing the acohol users too, because only people who haven't smoked pot or have completely been brainwashed by propaganda see a difference. If you treat pot the same as alcohol, ie. don't drive under the influence, work under the influence, and general public rules/laws used for alcohol - no problem.

But UNFORTUNATELY until they come up with a test that shows a person is currently under the influence of pot - it's not the same.  A breathelizer show how much you are under the influence of alcohol at that moment, the test for marijuana shows if you done it in the last week.  NOT THE SAME!

So Like the first guy said, you could be a model employee and never be under the influence of pot on the job.... take the test and get fired.  If it did work like that for alcohol.... there'd be a lot of job openings!!

Apr 27, 2013 12:14AM
John Doe does not do a great job when he is high.  Nobody does.  There is a reason they call it dope.  I know, I know..........people FEEL like they do a great job.  Then they come down and realize everything they plucked up. 
Apr 27, 2013 1:58AM
"Under the Influence" is Under the influence...doesnt matter if its alcohol, cold medicine  or marijuana. They ALL alter you state of awareness.
Apr 26, 2013 7:35PM
Apr 26, 2013 10:26PM
I  can see it now employers firing all the high paying employees to hire cheaper labor
Apr 26, 2013 8:31PM

Can you be fired for so called legal drugs? People need medication at different times of the day, what can you do?


Boy someone halfassed this law. This could easily be abused.
Apr 26, 2013 7:37PM
Are we really trying to make an argument that people should be able to go to work stoned? Wow! What ever happened to basic work ethic? You go to work, and you do your job according to the way the person who signs your check says to do it! If you have to take a drug test to insure the safety of the work environment, then you do it, or you get fired. Good Lord! Have we lowered our selves as a society so far that our personal recreational habits should be allowed in many potentially dangerous work places? Grow Up America!!
Apr 26, 2013 5:30PM

Hey have you seen Frank? Frank? Oh you won’t being seeing Frank anymore! What happened? About 11:00 o’clock this morning he was racing down the center isle on the Forklift. He was really moving and singing at the top of his lungs *Born to be wild and smoking a joint. He went off the loading flipped the lift and the counter weight came down on him. Is he alright? I don’t think so” they took him to the hospital in a coffee cup.

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