Even though Coloradans voted to legalize medical marijuana use in 2000 and recreational pot sales in 2012, employers in the state can still legally sack workers who score positive for cannabis on drug tests. But the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws’ local branch is trying to change that. Denver NORML executive director Jordan Person says the organization is currently looking for Colorado legislators to sponsor a bill that would prevent businesses from, in her words, “firing people on Wednesday for performing a lawful activity on Saturday.”
Coats, a paralyzed medical marijuana patient, was fired by DISH for failing a drug test two years earlier even though he was never accused of having been stoned on the job and consistently received exemplary work reports. As such, he filed a complaint over the issue in Arapahoe District Court, and when he lost there, his attorney, Michael Evans, took the matter to the Colorado Court of Appeals. That court also rejected Coats’s argument, but Evans didn’t give up. He subsequently submitted what he described to us as a final document in an effort to get the Colorado Supreme Court to weigh in — and in January 2014, the jurists agreed to do so.
But the Colorado Supreme Court June 2015 ruling on Evans’s challenge to Colorado’s Discriminary or Unfair Employment Practices statute, technically known by the numbers 24-34-402.5, wasn’t the victory for which Coats had hoped.
“By its terms,” the ruling stated, “the statute protects only ‘lawful’ activities. However, the statute does not define the term ‘lawful.’ Coats contends that the term should be read as limited to activities lawful under state statute. We disagree.”
The opinion added: “We find nothing to indicate that the General Assembly intended to extend section 24-34-402.5’s protection for lawful activities to activities that are unlawful under federal