Colorado Supreme Court upholds firing of medical marijuana-smoking Dish employee

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DENVER -- The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed Monday a lower courts' rulings to uphold the firing of an employee for using medical marijuana while not on duty.

The case involved Dish Network employee Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who smoked marijuana at home to control seizures. Coats failed a random drug test in 2010 and Dish, citing its zero-tolerance policy of drug use, fired him.

"If we're going to allow people to smoke marijuana are we just not going to allow them to work?" Coats said.

Coats sued, but lost at trial court, the Colorado Court of Appeals and now the Colorado Supreme Court, which ruled 6-0 that Dish had the right to fire him.

Brandon's attorney said Colorado has the strongest marijuana laws there are, but that is where his case ends.

"I wouldn't be able to actually work if I didn't have it. I'd be sitting there going (shaking body) you know, who can work like that? I can't even sleep like that," he said.

Though Brandon still can't find a job, he said it's now his mission to convince legislators to protect his medical needs along with his wants

"I want to be able to work one day. I want society to be able to change for me to be able to work one day," Coats said.

RELATED: State Supreme Court Ruling in Coats vs. Dish Network

"The supreme court holds that under the plain language of section 24-34-402.5, C.R.S. (2014), Colorado's 'lawful activities statute,' the term 'lawful' refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law. Therefore, employees who engage in an activity such as medical marijuana use that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute. We therefore affirm the court of appeals’ opinion," the court wrote in its ruling.

"This is a sad day for Colorado medical marijuana patients, who have now have no protection for off-duty use of medical or recreational marijuana," the Cannabis Therapy Institute said in a statement. "Patients have no protection for their use of medical marijuana as far as employment goes. The lesson is -- just because a ballot initiative purports itself to be in favor of patients or 'legalization' of medical marijuana, doesn't mean that it actually protects patients."

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