Employers in Colorado Get Mixed Messages About Marijuana Legalization

Employers in Colorado are receiving mixed messages about how to deal with employees who use marijuana, according to NPR. Recreational use of marijuana is now legal for adults in both Colorado and Washington state.

Under Colorado state law, employers can ban use of marijuana at work. Another state law prohibits employers from dismissing workers for engaging in lawful activities off the premises of the business during nonworking hours.

In April, an appellate court in Colorado ruled employees can be fired for testing positive for marijuana. The case was filed by Brandon Coats, who was fired by Dish Network in 2010 after he tested positive for marijuana—a violation of company policy. Coats is a quadriplegic, and has a state-issued medical marijuana license. He said he never used marijuana on the job, and argued Dish Network’s policy violated a state law that bans companies from firing employees for off-duty, lawful activities.

The court ruling affirmed a lower court decision that marijuana use does not qualify as lawful because it is still illegal under federal law. Coats’ case is now before the Colorado Supreme Court.

“If you had a martini on Saturday night, or smoked pot on Saturday night, but you’re fine on Monday morning, how is Saturday night the employer’s business?,” said Coats’ attorney, Michael Evans.

The most commonly used urine test used in employer drug testing measures the presence of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, which can stay in the body for days, weeks or longer, the article notes. A positive marijuana test does not necessarily indicate a person is high, or has used the drug recently, according to the article.

Barry Sample, Director of Science and Technology for Quest Diagnostics, which conducts drug testing, says eventually there may be tests that measure marijuana intoxication that are similar to Breathalyzers used to detect recent alcohol use. “It might be possible at some point, but it’s still developing,” he said.

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    Practical Recovery

    August 14, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    As we enter this new era we will need to have an extended collaboration between various experts and stakeholders (psychopharmacologists, employers, drug testing companies, law enforcement, other government agencies, etc.) and society at large, as we decide what levels of marijuana use are acceptable in various situations, and by whom.

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    August 14, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    The federal FDA has the responsibility of regulation of any controled substance. The laws that legalize marajuana are I violation of the federal law. The supremeicy clause make state laws I violation of federal law. If an employer contracts with the federal goverment they have to comply with federal drug fee work place provisions. This hodgepodge individual state .law on a drug is wrong. Ther is a reason we have an FDA. What if a state decided to approve a hart medicine used in Europe bu not approved in the US. FDA would not stand on the side line they would stop it. The inaction by the Federal goverment is to blame. I bad decision by the federal goverment is better then the indeasion.

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