Apr 25, 2013
On Thursday, a Colorado Court of Appeals panel ruled that a quadriplegic medical marijuana patient fired for off-the-job marijuana use had no expectation of job security, creating a disquieting legal situation in the state.
Despite lacking evidence that he was impaired on the job, the Dish Network fired telephone operator Brandon Coats after he tested positive for marijuana. Coats took his employers to court, arguing that his termination violated Colorado's Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, which states employees cannot be fired for engaging in legal activities when off-the-clock.
Unfortunately for Coats and the thousands of patients like him, a trial court ruled against him, citing a previous case that declared Colorado’s medical marijuana law only exempts patients from prosecution.
The decision makes it clear: Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute does not cover legal state activities that conflict with federal law. Meaning, employees may smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, and risk developing a myriad of ailments, but if those employees opt to use a safer substance by following a doctor-recommended course of treatment, they must do so with the knowledge that their voter-approved choice could mean losing their source of income.
Employers are prevented from discriminating against employees based on medical conditions or treatments. Medical marijuana patients should be treated equally, not worse than people who use dangerous narcotics at the direction of their physicians.