Colorado Pot Use Ruling Lets Employers Fire For Recreational Use

Fictitious sign welcoming visitors to Colorado.

In a new Colorado pot use ruling, the marijuana-friendly state of Colorado has encountered a setback. The court in Colorado ruled Monday that an employee can be fired for pot use off the job. According to the New York Times, the unanimous conclusion of the Colorado Supreme Court, in a closely watched workplace lawsuit involving a customer service worker from Dish Network who used medical marijuana off the job, and was fired after testing positive for the substance in a random drug test.

In a state with some of the most lenient marijuana laws, this Colorado pot use ruling states that companies have the right to enforce their own policies when it comes to the use of marijuana, even off the job. This decision is the first big challenge to pot use in Colorado.

“The federal government has in many ways the last say,” said Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver who studies legal issues swirling around marijuana’s growing place in society. “As long as that federal prohibition is in place, the states can only do so much.”

This new twist to the Colorado’s pot use law is creating an almost schizophrenic environment in the state surrounding the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana. On one hand, the state hands down a ruling giving employers the authority to fire workers based on pot use, and on the other, licensing has been given to open the country’s first marijuana resort.

This new Colorado pot use ruling will cause states and advocates across the country to take a better look at the language of the laws already in place, and those to be written in the future. In several states, employment protection is built into pot use laws.

colorado pot use ruling


“In some other states, employment protection is built into the marijuana law. Such employment protection statutes often serve to dissuade employers from taking action against medical marijuana patients, keeping the matter out of court,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocate of legalization.

This new decision will create a new discussion about states’ rights versus federal law. Most proponents of medical marijuana use are seeing this Colorado pot use ruling as blow to marijuana laws and personal use.

“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,” Justice Allison H. Eid wrote in the opinion.

Do you think your employer should have a say in what you do off the job? Is Colorado’s pot use ruling fair?

[Photos courtesy of usatunofficial and]