Attorneys, businesses argue over marijuana legalization at work

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DENVER -- Pot advocates partied when voters in Washington State and Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults, but the buzz could be short-lived.

Weed may now be legal to smoke at home, but if you show up to work with it in your system, you can still be fired, according to attorneys.

Attorney Jim Shore won a state Supreme Court case for a business that fired a worker over medical marijuana, and he said the ruling still applies, and so should federal law.

“We still have this system of dual sovereignty where regardless of what the state of Washington, or any other state does to legalize marijuana, the federal government still treats marijuana as illegal for all purposes,” Shore said.

However, union workers are setting up a different fight between business and organized labor.

"We would vigorously defend our members’ rights to engage in legal, off-duty conduct that has no impact on their job, and the burden would be on the employer to show there is, in fact, an impact of the job,” said Teamsters Local 117 attorney Dan Swedlow.

Medical experts say the marijuana high lasts about two to three hours, but traces of the drug typically remain in the body for up to a week.

How long a person is actually "impaired" after smoking pot is up for debate, but it's apparently longer than alcohol according to experts.

“I think it's dangerous and does have an impact on safety,” said Swedish Medical Center’s Dr. Ray Jarris.

“Do you want to board a plane within 24 hours of your pilot smoking marijuana? I don't think so,” Jarris said.

Many construction companies already have zero-tolerance drug policies. Owners fear the new law will cost them workers, and make it a lot harder to hire new employees.       

“My men have to be very, very clear-headed. And not only that, they are drilling- and the work is dangerous work,” said Larry Gregory who owns a drilling company.

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