Despite the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado (and the subsequent 4/20 tourist packages and celebrations), employees in the state can still be fired by their employers if they test positive for the drug, even if they never show up to work stoned. Thursday afternoon, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that companies were within their right to terminate their pothead employees because marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
"For an activity to be lawful in Colorado, it must be permitted by, and not contrary to, both state and federal law," the appeals court stated in its 2-1 conclusion.
The case began when a medical marijuana user, Brandon Coats, 33, sued the Dish Network after the company fired him in 2010 for failing a drug test. Coats, who was paralyzed in a car crash as a teenager, had been a medical marijuana user in the state since 2009. His case was dismissed in 2011 because marijuana use wasn't a “lawful activity.” Even with the recent legalization of the drug in Colorado, the state's court of appeals still upheld the initial decision.
"This case not only impacts Mr. Coats, but also some 127,816 medical-marijuana patient-employees in Colorado who could be summarily terminated even if they are in legal compliance with Colorado state law," [Coats's attorney Michael Evans] said in a statement.