Brandon Coats leaves the courtroom at the end of a court hearing on Sept. 30 in Denver. The Colorado Supreme Court listens to arguments in the case of Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic medical marijuana patient who was fired from his job at Dish Network after testing positive for marijuana. A written decision by the court will be issued at a later date. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)
Oct 7, 2014
The Denver Post - The constitutional amendment establishing medical marijuana in Colorado was pretty clear when it came to employers and pot.
It should not, the amendment said, be construed as requiring "any employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any work place."
That seemed straightforward to us, and apparently to two lower courts that ruled against a man suing his former employer for firing him over his weed use.
Yet Colorado Supreme Court justices seem to find the issue perplexing. The court last week considered an appeal brought by medical marijuana user Brandon Coats, who was rendered a quadriplegic by a car accident.
In 2010, he was fired from his customer service job at Dish Network for failing a drug test and violating the company's drug policy. Coats says he uses marijuana to control leg spasms.
He maintains he was never high on the job. And while one might question whether Coats' drug use really had any effect on his job performance, we don't think there's any question that the company is allowed to prohibit it.
And surely there are situations in which having marijuana-impaired employees could be a liability — such as on a loading dock where heavy equipment is in use.
One distinction that makes a difference is that Colorado
's medical marijuana amendment did not establish pot use as a right.
Rather, the amendment created what is called an "affirmative defense," which allows an exemption from prosecution — not a constitutional right to use medical marijuana.
We have sympathy for Coats, who apparently remains unemployed, but we hope Colorado's Supreme Court justices keep faith with both the letter and intent of the amendment and employers' rights to prohibit marijuana use by their employees.