Colorado Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Medical Marijuana Case

scales-gavelThis morning, the Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Brandon Coats v. Dish Network, probably the most important case addressing employee marijuana use in the entire nation.

At issue is Mr. Coats’ off-duty use of medical marijuana and whether his employer could legally terminate his employment for such use. In Colorado, it is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee for lawful conduct occurring on the employee’s off-duty time, absent a safety issue or conflict of interest, either real or apparent.

Last April, the Colorado Court of Appeals held that Colorado’s lawful off-duty activities statute did not protect Mr. Coats, as his marijuana use was clearly not lawful under federal law. Nonetheless, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to review the case to determine whether the lawful off-duty activities statute protects employees from discharge for medical marijuana use outside the job and whether the medical marijuana amendment actually makes the use of medical marijuana “lawful.”

If Mr. Coats is successful, it will change the legal landscape for employers. In that event, MSEC will be ready to assist employers in determining marijuana impairment at work using reasonable suspicion in addition to drug testing. MSEC will continue to follow this case closely.