Medical Marijuana Firing Upheld in Colorado

     DENVER (CN) – Recreational pot smoking is legal in Colorado, but Dish Network need not face a challenge to its firing of a quadriplegic who used medical marijuana as prescribed by a doctor, the state Supreme Court ruled.
     Affirming an appellate panel’s decision, which in turn affirmed the finding of a judge in Arapahoe County, Monday’s unanimous ruling endorses Dish Network for firing Brandon Coats after the customer-service representative failed a mandatory drug test.
     After a car accident left Coats paralyzed, a doctor prescribed medical marijuana to calm the muscle spasms Coats experienced in his legs. He insists he never ingested marijuana before or during work – a fact which Dish has accepted as truth.
     “I take it at home every night,” Coats said in 2014 interview, according to an article in Time. “It helps me sleep. I wake up with less stiffness, and it quiets my spasms all through the next day.”
     Dish disputes, however, that it is concerned about Coats smoking at the office or coming to work intoxicated. It instead has pointed to the fact that the Drug Enforcement Administration continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no accepted medical uses.
     “As a national employer, Dish remains committed to a drug-free workplace and compliance with federal law,” Dish spokesman John Hall said in a statement.
     Michael Evans, who represented Coats in his lawsuit, says that they’ve exhausted Coats’ legal options, and do not plan to pursue litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court.
     “You need the Colorado Supreme Court to stand up for its own laws,” Evans told the Denver Post. “The U.S. Supreme Court is not going to do that.”
     Evans remains concerned that this ruling sets a “very dangerous” precedent for others like Coats, who can face termination simply for ingesting medical marijuana – which has been legal in Colorado since 2000.
     In its 11-page ruling Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court fixated on the state’s “lawful activities statute,” emphasizing that “‘lawful’ refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law.”
     “Therefore, and activity such as medical marijuana use that is unlawful under federal law is not a ‘lawful’ activity under section 24-34-402.5,” Justice Allison Eid wrote, joined by five members of the court. “Accordingly, we affirm the opinion of the court of appeals.”
     Justice Monica Marquez did not participate in the court’s consideration or decision of the case.
     In a statement on his website, Evans pointed to a possible “silver lining” in the case.
     “There was previously no clear definition on what an employer and employee could do when it came to MMJ,” he wrote, abbreviating medical marijuana. “It was a very scary ‘gray’ area for both sides.
     “All of that hard work and risk put into this case was not a waste, because at least now there is clear communication for everyone on that issue from the court.”

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