Colorado businesses can now fire employees for the use of medical marijuana

Alicia Wallace and Jordan Steffen
The Denver Post

Employers' zero-tolerance drug policies trump Colorado's medical marijuana laws, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday.

In a 6-0 decision, the high court affirmed lower court rulings that businesses can fire employees for the use of medical marijuana — even if it's off-duty.

With the ruling, which was a blow to some medical marijuana patients and a sigh of relief to employers, Colorado became the first state to provide guidance on a gray area of the law.

The decision came nine months after the state's highest court heard oral arguments in Brandon Coats' case against Dish Network. Coats became quadriplegic in a car accident and used marijuana to control leg spasms. He had a medical marijuana card and consumed pot off-duty. He was fired in 2010 after failing a random drug test.

Brandon Coats listens as his attorney talks Monday about his case. Coats said he is disappointed in the state Supreme Court ruling that businesses can fire employees for the use of marijuana even if it's for medical purposes and even if it's done off-duty. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)

Coats, who was a customer service representative for Dish, challenged the Douglas County satellite TV company's zero-tolerance drug policy, claiming that his use was legal under state law. His firing had been upheld in both trial court and the Colorado Court of Appeals.

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