Medical Marijuana and the Law

It is not an issue yet in some states, but in Colorado, where smoking and growing pot is now legal, it has become a nightmare for one man.

Quadriplegic, Brandon Coats was fired from his job at Dish Network in 2010. He maintained that pot-smoking was allowed under a state law intended to protect employees from being fired for legal activities in their time off.

This week, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Coats cannot get his job back. Coats used the drug for medical purposes but he was fired after failing a drug test.

Colorado became at least the fourth state in which courts have ruled against medical marijuana patients fired for using pot. Washington State, Montana and California courts also have made such rulings wherein medical marijuana was central to a case.

Brandon Coats was fired by Dish Network for failing a drug test, although it was established that he was not high while at work. While he wasn’t high that particular day, the chemical in pot – THC – can stay in your system for weeks.

The Colorado justices ruled that because the drug is illegal under federal law, Coats’s use of pot while off-duty was still an illegal activity. “There is no exception for marijuana use for medicinal purposes or for marijuana use conducted in accordance with state law,” the court wrote.

While Coats says he’s very disappointed in the court’s decision, he is happy that it has shed light on the use of medical marijuana and employment.

The Colorado Constitution specifically states that employers do not have to amend their policies to accommodate employees’ marijuana use – even if the use is for medicinal reasons.

Dish says that it is very pleased and remains committed to a drug-free workplace and compliance with federal law.

Coats had been an operator for the company for three years when he failed the drug test. Testimony revealed that he had told his employer that he probably would not pass the test.

It is an interesting case with 23 states and the District of Columbia now allowing people to use medical marijuana, and other states are pushing for the same right. Alaska, DC, Washington State, Colorado and Oregon have all legalized recreational marijuana use.

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