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Colo. Court: Dish Can Fire Worker for Pot Use at Home

Even though marijuana is legal in that state, and even if it's medicinal
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2015 12:09 PM CDT
Colo. Court: Dish Can Fire Worker for Pot Use at Home
Brandon Coats, right, talks about the Colorado Court of Appeals ruling handed down April 25, 2013, that upheld Coats being fired from his job after testing positive for the use of medical marijuana.   (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

A Colorado quadriplegic who lost his Dish Network job for using marijuana outside of work for medical reasons lost his case in the state's highest court today. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled 6-0 that businesses can fire employees who violate their drug policies, even if that drug use is legal in that state, is used for medicinal purposes, and isn't used at work, the Denver Post reports. The case arose after Brandon Coats failed a drug test in 2010 and lost his telephone operator job with Dish, which has a zero-tolerance drug policy, the AP reports. His lawyer argued that because Coats, who suffers violent muscle spasms, used pot only at home and worked a "nonhazardous" job, he should be exempt from such no-drug policies. The court's decision upheld previous rulings that because marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, businesses can prohibit it no matter the circumstances.

The big question: whether medical marijuana use would be protected by the state's "Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute," originally meant to protect cigarette smokers who smoke off the clock, the Post notes. However, the justices in this case say that qualifying outside-of-work activities have to be legal per both state and federal law. Legal experts note this ruling could have wide implications for how employers in Colorado and other states deal with both recreational and medicinal marijuana use, per the Post. "This is a sad day for Colorado medical marijuana patients, who now have no protection for off-duty use of medical or recreational marijuana," a statement from the Cannabis Therapy Institute reads, per KDVR. The Dish Network's statement, according to 7News Denver: "Dish is committed to its drug-free workplace policy and compliance with federal law, which does not permit the use of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes." (More pot stories.)

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