Pot Smokers Can Be Fired, Rules Colorado Court

Pot smokers can be fired from their jobs in Colorado even though medical and recreational marijuana remains legal in the state.

That’s according to a new ruling in the Colorado Court of Appeals, which stated Thursday that “off-duty” smoking can result in the smoker being lawfully fired.

The court chose not to introduce employment protection for medical marijuana users in the state as the drug remains barred by the federal government. In its 2-1 conclusion, the appeals court stated: “For an activity to be lawful in Colorado, it must be permitted by, and not contrary to, both state and federal law.”

The court cast its ruling after 33-year-old Brandon Coats, a telephone operator for Englewood-based Dish Network, was fired in 2010 for his use of medical marijuana. Coats was paralyzed in a car crash as a teenager and has used the drug in the state since 2009.

Coats launched a lawsuit to recover his job but had his claim dismissed by a trial court in 2011. The judge agreed with Dish Network’s assertion that medical marijuana does not constitute a “lawful activity” that is covered by a state employment law protecting cigarette smokers from being fired for legal behavior away from work.

Coats’ attorney, Michael Evans, plans to appeal. He told The Associated Press that the court’s decision that pot smokers can be fired would have far-reaching consequences:

“This case not only impacts Mr. Coats, but also some 127,816 medical marijuana patient-employees in Colorado who could be summarily terminated even if they are in legal compliance with Colorado state law.”

However, the ruling will not come as a surprise to many, with the verdict matching those in similar cases elsewhere.

What do you think about this issue? Is it right that pot smokers can be fired for off-the-clock smoking even if medical marijuana is involved?

[Image via Shutterstock.com]

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