Colorado court says employers can fire you for legally using medical marijuana

Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic, was fired from his job at the Dish Network for smoking medical marijuana

By Joanna Rothkopf
Published June 15, 2015 6:40PM (EDT)
Brandon Coats, right, with his attorney, Michael Evans, left.           (AP/Ed Andrieski)
Brandon Coats, right, with his attorney, Michael Evans, left. (AP/Ed Andrieski)

On Monday morning, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld a law stating that even though medical marijuana is legal in the state, employers can still lawfully fire employees for using it, even if it doesn't effect their job performance.

The decision directly concerned Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic and medical marijuana user who was fired by Dish Network in 2010 for using the drug while at home.

The court ruled that he had violated the state's "lawful activities statute," which states that employees cannot be fired for partaking in activities that are "lawful under both state and federal law." Since medical marijuana is illegal on a federal level, Dish Network's decision to terminate Coats doesn't break any laws.

The Guardian's Alan Yuhas reports:

Coats argued that state law shielded him from termination because he only consumed marijuana outside of work. Dish countered that marijuana's illegal federal status means that state law does not protect him...

Coats was paralyzed in a car accident and has used medical marijuana for six years to treat muscle spasms, in accordance with Colorado state laws. Before the random drug test he told his supervisors he would likely fail.

Dish Network insisted the case was about workplace standards, rather than about medical marijuana specifically.

"Although I'm very disappointed today, I hope that my case has brought the issue of use of medical marijuana and employment to light," said Coats in a statement. "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."

Joanna Rothkopf

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Brandon Coats Colorado Courts Drugs Federal Law Laws Medical Marijuana State Law