DENVER – Medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in Colorado, but employers in the state can lawfully fire workers who test positive for the drug, even if it was used off duty, according to a court ruling Thursday.
The Colorado Court of Appeals found there is no employment protection for medical marijuana users in the state since the drug remains barred by the federal government.
“For an activity to be lawful in Colorado, it must be permitted by, and not contrary to, both state and federal law,” the appeals court stated in its 2-1 conclusion.
The ruling concurs with court decisions in similar cases elsewhere and comes as businesses attempt to regulate pot use among employees in states where the drug is legal.
Colorado and Washington state law both provide for recreational marijuana use. Several other states have legalized medical use.
Police departments have been especially concerned since officers are sworn to uphold both state and federal laws.
The Colorado case involves Brandon Coats, 33, a telephone operator for Englewood, Colo.-based Dish Network LLC. Coats was paralyzed in a car crash as a teenager and has been a medical marijuana patient in the state since 2009.
He was fired in 2010 for failing a company drug test, though his employer didn’t claim he was ever impaired on the job.