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You’re Fired: Drug Use at Home Can Leave You Unemployed

A recent Colorado Supreme Court decision sent a clear message to employees throughout the state:  employers are taking swift and proactive steps to terminate employees that are potentially addicted or impaired. And while this version of the bill specifically targets marijuana use, experts agree that the language will eventually be changed to include other drugs and addictive substances.

What sets this bill apart from others? The answer is simple: workers can now be held responsible for at-home drug use.

Conduct in the Home

In a unanimous decision this week by the Colorado Supreme Court, it was ruled that businesses can legally fire employees for using medical marijuana either on or off-duty.

Despite the fact that Colorado passed multiple acts to legalize medical cannabis, the court’s verdict ultimately means that the state’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute does not offer protection – at-home use applies only to activities considered legal under both state and federal law.

And, as we all know, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.

 The Ripple Effect

The final verdict was made in regards to the case of Brandon Coats against Dish Network. Coats, who was left quadriplegic after a car accident, was a licensed medical marijuana user. He used the drug while off-duty, as it helped to control leg spasms. In 2010, he was fired after failing a drug test and filed a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Dish’s decision to fire Coats has gone on to be upheld in both trial court and the Colorado Court of Appeals. Michael Evans, the attorney for Coats, said they do not have plans to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Giving Employers Power

“Today’s decision means that until someone in the House or Senate champions the cause, most employees who work in a state with the world’s most powerful medical marijuana laws will have to choose between using medical marijuana and work,” said Coats in a statement to Huffington Post.

The Supreme Court ruling also means that companies will now have the freedom to create their own employment and drug-testing policies related to marijuana.

Earlier this month, federal employees were also notified that they are forbidden to use marijuana either on or off-duty, regardless of the state they are employed.

After recreational marijuana use became legal in Colorado, employers across the state began ramping up their drug testing. A survey by Denver-based Mountain States Employers Council found:

  • One in five Colorado employers said they implemented more stringent drug-testing policies.
  • About 71 percent said they made no changes to their policies since legalization.
  • Only 2 percent relaxed their drug policies.


Additional Reading: 3 Outrageous Marijuana “Miracle” Cures Exposed