No Unemployment Benefits if Employee Tests Positive for Marijuana, says Colorado Court

The Colorado Court of Appeals has upheld a decision by the Industrial Claim Appeals Office denying unemployment benefits to an employee terminated for testing positive for marijuana. Beinor v. Indus. Claim Appeals Office (Colo. Ct. App. 2011).

The question before the court was “whether an employee terminated for testing positive for marijuana in violation of an employer’s zero-tolerance drug policy may be denied unemployment compensation benefits even if [the employee has a valid medical marijuana card].”
The court noted that the Colorado Employment Security Act disqualifies from benefits an employee who tests positive for not medically prescribed controlled substances. Because marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, which, by law, cannot be prescribed for any reason, the court ruled that Beinor’s disqualification from benefits was proper.
“This is a positive decision for employers in the short term,” says MSEC attorney Curtis Graves, “but it also contains a very thought-provoking dissent by Judge Richard L. Gabriel. It’s clear the laws surrounding medical marijuana will continue to evolve for years to come.”