Colorado Court Rules Employees Can be Fired for Marijuana Use

An appellate court in Colorado ruled Thursday employees can be fired for testing positive for marijuana. Recreational use of the drug is now legal in the state.

The case was filed by Brandon Coats, who was fired by Dish Network in 2010 after he tested positive for marijuana—a violation of company policy. Coats is a quadriplegic, and has a state-issued medical marijuana license, The Wall Street Journal reports. He said he never used marijuana on the job, and argued Dish Network’s policy violated a state law that bans companies from firing employees for off-duty, lawful activities.

The court ruling affirmed a lower court decision that marijuana use does not qualify as lawful because it is still illegal under federal law. The ruling does not invalidate Colorado’s marijuana law, the article notes. Coat’s lawyer said he will appeal the decision.

Robert Mikos, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School who is an expert on drug law, told the newspaper at least two states—Arizona and Delaware—have passed laws restricting the firing of employees for medical marijuana use, unless they are shown to have been impaired on the job. Colorado does not have such a law, he added.

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