Colorado: Supreme Court Affirms Employees Can Be Fired For Off-The-Job Marijuana Use

Members of the Colorado Supreme Court have unanimously affirmed lower courts’ rulings that employers possess the authority to fire employees for their off-the-job use of marijuana. The Court found that the plant’s legal status under state law does not make the act of consuming cannabis “lawful” under the state’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute.

The Justices opined, “The supreme court holds that under the plain language of section 24-34-402.5, C.R.S. (2014), Colorado’s ‘lawful activities statute,’ the term ‘lawful’ refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law. Therefore, employees who engage in an activity such as medical marijuana use that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute.”

The ruling upholds the decision by Dish Network in 2010 to fire employee Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who used cannabis to treat muscle spasticity. Coats failed a random urine screen. Such tests identify the presence of the inert metabolite (byproduct) carboxy-THC, which may be present in urine for weeks or even months after one has ceased using the substance. Consequently, the Justice Department acknowledges, “A positive test result, even when confirmed, only indicates that a particular substance is present in the test subject’s body tissue. It does not indicate abuse or addiction; recency, frequency, or amount of use; or impairment.”

The Colorado decision mirrors those of courts in California, Oregon, and Washington — each of which similarly determined that state laws exempting marijuana consumers from criminal liability do not extend to civil protections in the workplace.

According to a study published last year in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, employees who test positive for carboxy-THC do not possess an elevated risk of workplace accident compared to employees who test negative.

Full text of the decision, Coats v. Dish Network, is here.

44 thoughts

  1. “do not possess an elevated risk of workplace accident”

    Truly, I think this says it all! They don’t care about that. They care about enforcing their misplaced predjudices and if that means hurting someone like Mr. Coats, then so be it.

    I am more than a little tempted to sever my ties with Dish Network but I am sure it would do no good… I wonder if they, or Walmart, have the slightest clue how many of their customers use cannabis.

  2. There is an “lawful off duty activity statute”. Who the hell do these people think they are. They are all going to whatever they think hell is

  3. SO after reading this if you smoke or consume marijuana either for medicinal or recreational purposes and do not ask your lawmakers where they stand, ?? And if they will introduce new laws that make it legal to use marijuana under FEDERAL LAW AND DO NOT VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE WITH ALL YOUR LIKE MINDED FRIENDS !!!. THEN YOU DESERVE TO GO TO JAIL OR LOSE YOUR JOB WHEN CAUGHT USING MARIJUANA …

  4. So essentially, to enjoy the legalization of the drug whether it be recreational or medicinal, you must be unemployed. Or I suppose you can find a job where an employer does not care for your use of the drug but these cases are rare in my experience. This is nonsense and needs to be reviewed if we are to move forward with the legalization movement.

  5. “Former” employees whose hands are viable should consider self-employed handwork options including making the flexible drawtube one-hitters which will soon replace BOTH machine-rolled, cashier-retailed tobacco $igarettes and hot burning overdose monoxide Joints. Form a manufacturing workshop cooperative in your neighborhood AND make money running seminars teaching craigslistrecruited customers how to make the product (see free wiki article “Make Pipes from Everyday Objects”).

  6. I think most of us would agree with a drug-free workplace. The central point of most of these arguments is privacy in the home. How can a state supreme judge rule on anything but the interpretation of state laws. Clearly they are prohibitionists ignoring the laws of their state. Maybe a place to start is to push for allowing only saliva drug testing to be used. Cannabis detection times are on the order of 5 to 48 hours. That is closer to reasonable. I hope this becomes impetus for SCOTUS ruling or our national congressmen to get of their ****and do something that “the people” demand.

  7. This shows another reason why federal legalization is important…if cannabis were federally legal, the court decision would have been different.

  8. If an employer can’t figure out that drug testing for marijuana in urine, hair or blood does not measure weather one is currently intoxicated by marijuana is irrelevant to the fact that I can find another client for my further employment who is willing and reasonable to negotiate more important business.

  9. …But For those who require medical treatment from cannabis in order to perform their job responsibly, and have proven with facts they can perform their job as required, I call it baseless medical profile discrimination.

  10. We’re really sorry Barack, but well, that choom gang thing…yeah…could you be packed up and give us back the keys by say 10:30 this morning?

  11. if we never made mistakes we’d never learn from them -specifically, in the sense of getting legalization 100% right the first time.
    there is more legislation that needs to be passed.
    I would contend that if the state approves marijuana for recreational use, like alcohol – then the court contradicts itself even with prescription medication use ( controlled substances), much less alcohol.

    think all the warnings about causing drowsiness on pill bottles and some research on how long other controlled substances stay in your system is a good place to start….even if it starts with medical use first and trickles down.
    we know colorados a lib controlled state and the process is about control.
    this may need to be reintroduced in oregon, or another state after being properly prepared.

  12. I don’t get it?? Can these same employers fire people for, off the job alcohol use? Or say having sex off the job? Ridiculous? I think not. What ever happened to my right to pursue hapiness,?, and of course without harm to another. So this sounds very Gestapo to me. And I have my references.

  13. The Drug-Free Workplace Act should be simultaneously rescinded along with legalization.Because it is not,it totally nullifies legalization for people that have to work.Our beloved Federal government is the monkey on our back and has got us all in a stranglehold.So until we rid ourselves of this Reaganomic cancer, we’re all just piss’in in the wind(cup). I think the Drug-Free Workplace Act also coincides with the bigger conspiracy to alleviate Corporations of American workers.If it wasn’t intended that way,it sure didn’t take them long to figure out the monetary advantage of not having to hire the pot smoking Americans. That’s going to be one tough monkey to rip loose!

  14. Your employer does not own you.

    They pay you for a service.

    Seriously, this is madness. Prohibition, you are in your last moments of life. Are you determined to ruin as many lives as you can before you die your pathetic death?

  15. US Supreme Court Appeal? I’m curious can this civil case be challenged all the way to the US Supreme Ct?

  16. ““The supreme court holds that under the plain language of section 24-34-402.5, C.R.S. (2014), Colorado’s ‘lawful activities statute,’ the term ‘lawful’ refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law.”

    24-34-402.5 Does not specify any such thing.

  17. Mike Said:

    “US Supreme Court Appeal? I’m curious can this civil case be challenged all the way to the US Supreme Ct?”

    The Federal Court does not have jurisdiction. Even if they did, they would have to rule in favor or federal law.

  18. I have zero respect for our Federal Govt! They, the ones that control it, don’t care about science and they don’t seem to care much about the will of the people. They are highly predjudiced and rely on power that is paid for with our tax dollars to enforce their brand of control. Of course, if one of their kids or relatives get caught with marijuana (or even something much more dangerous like crack cocaine or meth) the charges quickly disappear and not one day is spent in jail; e.g. Jeb Bush, who is very anti-marijuana, saved his daughter from what would have been a prison sentence for just about anyone else…

    Jeb Bush is ashamed of the Bush name! How funny! His campaign is now running with his first name only “Jeb”. I just hope that America is smart enough to realize that this ignorant bully (according to those he went to school with) is not the kind of president this country needs; actually we need exactly the opposite!

  19. On June 1st 2015, I lost my job. I had been employed a little over a year. My job consisted of me driving to do senior home care in the home of the client. When leaving a home that morning, I had a vehicle(my car) accident. My employer had me come to the office immediately to do a drug test, which a couple weeks prior I had smoked cannabis at a birthday function . Nonetheless I failed the drug test. At the time I was by no means impaired..with no way to prove that or anyone who cared to find out..police report from the vehicle accident shows no fault by reason of impairment.. what do you call this? I call it unfair. Thus I have no job now. I am really in a fix.something here does not seem right. But compensation really makes out in cases like this..due to the fact that you are immediately dismissed from any kind of case being in your favor. Consequently I didn’t even need their compensation, but I’m certain someone might..and it would not be there for them. What a rock and a hard place..this fight needs fought til its won(resolved.

  20. Lost my job 06/01/2015. Due to a drug test gone bad..they made me drug test post vehicle accident on the job(my vehicle) I was in no way impaired at the time..police report says nothing about impairment.. workmens compensation made me drug test immediately..I was dismissed immediatelybby compensation even though I didn’t need their Hall..

  21. Correction to my earlier post: We can be influenced by a euphoric “high” with marijuana, but I retract my use of the word “intoxicate” for drugs like alcohol, which is precisely why our body stores the substances in marijuana in our fat cells because, providing it was grown organically and transported without additives (like illegal, unregulated marijuana) marijuana is GOOD for us and USEFUL; unlike cut up cocaine or alcohol which the body attempts to get rid of immediately because it quickly amounts to poison so OF COURSE its not going to stay in the bloodstream for more than three days.

    The piss testing industry may be gaining steam in the courts now, but their days are numbered. The more we legalize the more we realize.

  22. Suzanne, this is part of the scam on Americans. They just look for any excuse to treat people like shit, (You fucking Jew, RedHead, Nigger, German Nazis, Marijuana Addict, Communist, Wetback, Fag, Italian, not black enough (rare but it happens), Dotheads and Arabs to name a few) and one of the last the still works in an official capacity is Marijuana User. You can hear them call at night, howling to gather in numbers to rape your children to bits. Or now it is they get together and give people Schizophrenia, they are too lazy to be raping.

    The continuing absurdities of the Prohibitionism Belief System are nothing more than a replacement for American Racism. Marijuana Users are the New Niggers (only because they cannot “make” being black illegal). That is how is Law Enforcement and the Drug Testing Industries wants this to go down while pretending that is not what they are doing. Pull that rug out from under their feet and pull it hard folks. The continuing attempt at Marijuana User Apartheid by the Executive Branch is just not acceptable.

  23. How can you say you don’t want to run the country into the ground, when it is a priority to end the employment of anyone that uses marijuana–one of the most useful medically active materials ever discovered?

    This like choosing to put people in prison over Aspirin showing up in sample!!! Our judges are some kind of weird, they aren’t normal people, that is for sure. But they also have a lot of trouble understanding knowledge of the real world, but rely too much on written materials. They keep reading, “Marijuana is a dangerous Schedule One Material” and somehow forgot it is their job to stop the Executive Branch from executing laws based on Perjury; Nonsense and Bias. Public Safety has never been improved by these laws (and violations of the Fourth Amendment) so how can that be cited as the reason for them? Decades of failure still look like a promising future to our Judges, I just don’t get it.

  24. This is not surprising. COLORADO Residence, and mmj patience, need to campaign to revise their mmj laws to incorporate a jobs protection clause. Arizona has a solid employee protection clause. It’s not perfect but definitely better than the current status quo.

    Mr. Obama now that you have been stiffeled on your recent jobs bill, please refocus you and your teams attention to rescheduling Marijuana to class 2. With percocet, vicodone ect. Then no one can have this happen to them in their state mmj programs.

    Norml keep up the great work!!!!

  25. “the plant’s legal status under state law does not make the act of consuming cannabis lawful … under both state and federal law.”

    It is the expansively literal interpretation of the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, which confuses the cannabis plant – which is identified in the definition, with marijuana – which is explained in the definition as being derived from the plant.

    Why are the federal agencies allowed to use the literal interpretation which is contemptuous to our Constitution, and demonstrably bad for the People?

    The holistic interpretation which identifies the “other substance” that is derived from cannabis, will end this confusion. This interpretation can be stated in an unambiguous way which actually shows respect for our Constitution.

    The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L.

    This year is a good time to call upon Congress to enact this reform to the definition of marijuana in the CSA to remove the circumstance that employers possess the authority to fire employees for their off-the-job use of cannabis.

  26. If you work for a company that does random drug testing, DO NOT USE DRUGS.

    I do not understand the problem. When you started the job, you knew that they tested for drug use.
    Nothing changed in that situation.

  27. @Dudleed: No, not everyone here agrees with a drug free workplace because there is no such thing, and even if there was, drug testing is NOT the way to do it. It might interest you to know that non-testing industry/drug war funded research has shown that drug testing is so useless to catch hard drugs that drug testing workplaces actually have fewer mj users but MORE users of hard drugs like cocaine and that 98percent of all positives are for weed. Or that by the 90’s drug testing was on the decline due to the fact that it Disneyworld and was a waste of money, but the government stepped in and started paying employers to test, by making the cost a tax write off, giving hefty tax breaks for accepting this now free service of uncle Sam, and providing taxpayer funded subsidies for workers comp insurance for companies that force workers to submit to the full range of tests. Which is why drug testing companies are at the forefront of fighting legalization, though no one seems to notice. The first challenge to the CO law came from the owner of a testing company.

    Here is something to consider: if testing is so useful and accurate, where are all the users? Nearly 100 percent of employers no test, so logically the users must all be on welfare. But when we tested everyone on public assistance it only turned up 2 percent positive,and most would have been for mj.

    You want a safer workplace? Push fitness for duty testing that tests reflexes and reaction times, which tests for actual impairment regardless of reason (did you know that alcohol and fatigue each individually dwarf the negative effects of ALL illegal drugs on the workplace?) And it is non invasive and does not give your employer or their health insurance company an intimate peek into your body. (Which they have been caught doing as well.)

    @JoeNickelsack: That may be the way to end drug testing. end the tax breaks and subsidies. If companies want to drug test, let them pay for it themselves and stop forcing us to pay for the subcontracting of our own fourth amendment violation. Companies weren’t willing to pay for drug testing themselves, because it didn’t work then and doesn’t work now for more info. Follow the sidebar link to a web roundup of anti-drugtesting facts and info.

  28. @Demonhype
    I don’t disagree with anything that you say. When I said “drug free workplace” I didn’t mean I agree with the concept of no “contaminants” or metabolytes in the urine. What I meant was that intoxication, mental impairment, “under the influence” is justification for counseling, time off without pay, or firing. I work with high energy potentially dangerous systems. If one of my coworkers was to injure me because of impairment obviously that would be an injustice. However, nothing could be more unfair than being punished because my wife and I enjoyed a toke while sitting on the beach, watching the sun go down, listening to Blue Oyster Cult two weeks ago. My point was that submitting to saliva and not urine testing may be a small win in the overall war. Most hard-working, intelligent people can deal with a 5- 48 hour detection time. I think any drug testing other than impairment proof is an invasion of privacy. I just think saliva testing may be a push in the right direction and a way to win a small battle. “If the are the big tree, we are the small ax. Bob Marley

  29. and government will continue this stand mark my words,in one way or the other….they will beat the dead horse!!! fargen bastages!!where is saliva testing and if it has become more reliable, how can we get corporate to ride?

  30. Gotta prop up that facade that the Federal Government has the authority to do this…which it doesn’t


  31. This just goes to show marijuana is really legal no where. Until the Fed recognize marijuana laws your life can still be turned upside down.

  32. Hypocrites what do they think alcohol and prescription drugs are sour milk?
    (((filed UT Supreme Court Brief proves drug laws gave private citizens power of a public office.))))

    The day is coming soon when the truth of reality is forced on their selfish minds.
    Drug laws created master citizenship for doctors and they happily violated others rights so they could be in charge of their choices.
    That is so evil. The blood of 200,000 Latino men, women and children- is not enough.

    If those south of the border were white like them?
    They would be so angry at those unfair drug prohibition laws that were just like Alcohol prohibition and caused nothing but crime and suffering.

    That is the truth……..and the sooner the newsmedia prints the truth the sooner our status quo protecting US Supreme Court will start using the facts on hand for logic…….INSTEAD OF SERVING SATAN……..THAT’S RIGHT INSTINCT MECHANISM IS SATAN FOR ALL YOU RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS.


    @DeseretNews TRAPPED in TwilightZone-Knowing filed court doc could free you &a mil. other citizens.But can’t speak

    Here is filed proof of our unlawful drug laws waiting for the UTAH SUPREME COURT TO DESIDE WHAT IS TRUE.
    (filed, notarized, stamped FILED UTAH SUPREME COURTS/APPELLATE COURTS JUNE 4, 2015)

    Utah Supreme Court Justices- Matthew B. Durrant, Thomas R. Lee, Christine M. Durham, Constandinos Himonas &
    Jill N. Parrish:

    1-If you believe that ‘Controlled Substance Acts’ (giving Doctors the power of government permit sales) violate equality…….
    Sign here: Name(print)____________________Sign______________________date________

    2-If you believe that ‘Controlled Substance Acts’ (giving Doctors the power of government permit sales) are lawful…………….
    Sign here: Name(print)____________________Sign______________________date________

    Proof our ‘Controlled Substance Acts’ violate equality giving the power of government permit sales to private enterprise-

    Our prisons are filled with commodity violators, based on dangerous substance use permits.
    Those permits are not sold by a government entity.
    They are sold by Private Business Venture.
    We violate our highest principle of democracy- Citizens being equal under all laws.
    We are evil & need to repent of the sins of our fathers did to our freedom.
    Ask our Utah Supreme Court Justices if the Constitutional proof is true?

    The ATF sells permits to buy & use dangerous controlled substances=
    Doctors sells permits to buy & use dangerous controlled substances =

    The difference is. Doctors of medicine have this Master powers of temporary permit sales:
    And Do Not Hold An Office And Get To Keep The Permit Fees.
    Private enterprise with the power of a government permit office.

    ((Any Law That Violates Equality, Outside Of Public Office Is Unlawful))
    The Truth Shall Set You Free………..
    If you have the sense to use the facts for your logic & beliefs!
    The reason you all need me to tell you the truth of our reality?

    Instinct Mechanism/(Satan)- Is protecting status quo operations for the group.
    Blinding members to the logic and supporting facts, so we don’t risk sudden changes.

    Defend our Constitution.
    Jonathan L. Peterson
    Behavior Research for Humanity llc.
    3670 S. Red Maple Rd.
    Salt Lake City, UT 84106 (ph.208-650-1346) @jonnyricola

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    @UTPublicEd @UtahCorrections Our law, demands due process for citizens who have proof of injustice. You have proof.

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    2Deny Citizens DUE PROCESS IS EVIL.@FoxNewsLive

  34. Boycott alcohol until marijuana is legalized at the federal level. Buy marijuana instead. You’ll be denying politicians the tax $ they’re addicted to, and it’s better for your health.
    If you’re addicted to alcohol, make your own. It’s not that hard to do.

  35. If eployees time off is governed by the employer, then the Off-The-Clock time needs to be compensated with overtime!!!!!!!!

  36. Jury nullification is the black eye maker for attorneys and legislators. Speak with your vote.

  37. if people are getting fired on the job the whole office should be fired just for drinking coffee, because if you didn’t know already coffee is now considered a addictive drug.

  38. Since when is Colorado a for-Cause employment State? For-Cause criteria must comprise for-Cause employment.

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