The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed Monday a lower court's ruling to uphold the firing of an employee for using medical marijuana while not on duty.
The case involved Dish Network employee Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who smoked marijuana at home to control seizures. Coats failed a drug test in 2010 and Dish, citing its zero-tolerance policy of drug use, fired him.
In its decision, the court ruled that "lawful" activities must fall under both under both state and federal law. It said 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.
Officials with Douglas County-based Dish said in a statement that they were "pleased with the outcome of the court's decision today. As a national employer, Dish remains committed to a drug-free workplace and compliance with federal law."
In a statement, the Cannabis Therapy Institute said called it a "sad day" for Colorado medical marijuana patients, who have now have "no protection for off-duty use of medical or recreational marijuana.” The lawyer for Dish Network employee called ruling "devastating."
Colorado employers are allowed to set their own workplace drug policies, so this decision gives those with a zero-tolerance policy the confidence to feel safe with their strategy.