Colorado Supreme Court Takes Up Major Marijuana Case

Yesterday, the Colorado Supreme Court granted a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the case of Brandon Coats v. Dish Network, easily the most important case regarding marijuana and the employer/employee relationship in the State of Colorado. The Court will consider two issues:

  • whether Colorado’s lawful off-duty activities statute “protects employees from discretionary discharge for lawful use of medical marijuana outside the job where the use does not affect job performance,” and
  • whether the State’s medical marijuana amendment to the Colorado Constitution “makes the use of medical marijuana ‘lawful’ and confers a right to use medical marijuana to persons lawfully registered with the state.”

Coats sought review by the Colorado Supreme Court last summer following the Colorado Court of Appeals decision in April 2013 that the term “lawful” as used in the lawful off-duty activities statute means lawful under both state and federal law. That decision upheld Mr. Coats’ termination by his employer for off-duty marijuana use, as evidenced by a routine drug test.

As a result of that holding, Colorado employers are free to discipline employees for off-duty marijuana use without having to prove on-the-job impairment.

“A ‘yes’ answer to either of the above questions could mean a major shift for employers’ rights,” says MSEC attorney Curtis Graves. “But it’s important to remember that neither Mr. Coats nor any of the employees terminated in the major marijuana cases was using marijuana in the workplace.”