The Colorado Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that it was constitutional for Dish Network to fire a quadriplegic employee named Brandon Coats after he tested positive for marijuana, despite being a medical marijuana patient, according to the Denver Post.
Since there isn’t an existing Colorado statute that addresses how employers treat workers regarding medicinal marijuana, the Court relied on federal law to overrule the state law. Therefore, the state court deemed Coats’ activities a federal offense under the Controlled Substances Act and uphold Dish Network’s decision to terminate his employment.
In Colorado, the use of medical marijuana while off the job is legal as outlined in Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Statute of the Medical Marijuana Amendment. However, Coats’ failed random drug test raised questions over the legality of firing employees who still have marijuana in their system while not off-duty.
Coats wasn’t high at work and only used marijuana while he was off the clock to treat muscle spasms, but under Colorado law, companies retain the right to make and enforce their own drug policies — and Dish Network has a zero tolerance policy.
In 2012, Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Although this case pertains specifically to the use of prescribed medical marijuana, Denver attorneys told the Denver Post that the court’s decision will also implicate how employers handle those who use the drug for recreational purposes.
Since his termination from Dish Network, Brandon Coats has remained unemployed.
“I’ve been having a hard time finding employment,” Coats said to the Denver Post. “I want to work.”