WORKERS CAN BE FIRED FOR USING POT OFF-DUTY
Big implications for case of quadriplegic fired after failing drug test.
The state of Colorado Supreme Court ruled 6/15 that a medical marijuana patient who was fired after failing a drug test cannot get his job back. Prior, a trial court judge and Colorado’s appeals court upheld his firing, saying pot can’t be considered lawful if it is outlawed at the federal level.
The case has big implications for employers and pot smokers in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana.
Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational pot in 2012. Though the case involves medical marijuana, the court’s decision could also affect how companies treat employees who use the drug recreationally.
The plaintiff is a quadriplegic who was fired by defendant after failing a drug test in 2010. The company agreed that plaintiff wasn’t high on the job but said it has a zero-tolerance drug policy. Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., allow medical marijuana. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational sales, though court cases so far have involved medical patients. Courts in California, Montana and Washington state also ruled against medical marijuana patients fired for pot use.
The plaintiff argued that his pot smoking was allowed under a Colorado law intended to protect employees from being fired for legal activities off the clock. The plaintiff didn’t use marijuana at work, and he wasn’t accused of being high on the job. But pot’s intoxicating chemical, THC, can stay in the system for weeks. The company argued that because pot is illegal under federal law, medical marijuana isn’t covered by the state law. The Colorado Constitution specifically states that employers don’t have to amend their policies to accommodate employees’ marijuana use.