Court: Companies can fire workers who smoke pot in off-work hours

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A  landmark ruling Thursday that should grab the attention of pot smokers across the state. The Appeals Court of Colorado issued an opinion saying employers can fire employees for smoking pot, even while off the clock.

It's the first case of its kind regarding marijuana and Colorado's Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute which says you can't be fired for doing anything legal while not at work, like smoking cigarettes.

The passage of Amendment 64 in November was supposed to be a huge win for pot smokers in Colorado, but this latest ruling is a huge blow dealt to anyone who lights up, especially Brandon Coats.

“I’m not going to get better anytime soon, I need the marijuana. I don’t want to go the rest of my life without having a job.” Coats is a quadriplegic who uses medical marijuana to control intense muscle spasms.

He was fired from his job as a phone operator at Dish Network in 2010 for testing positive.

Coats’ attorney Michael Evans says, “That was the first time that Dish ever knew about Brandon’s use.”

Coats and his attorney Michael Evans went to trial and argued his termination violated employee rights, since medical marijuana is legal in Colorado, but the court disagreed.

Thursday, the Appeals Court said, in part, "Because activities conducted in Colorado, including medical marijuana use, are subject to both state and 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 use of marijuana is  violation of federal law.

There’s no doubt Colorado has been a leader in the legalization of marijuana, but this latest ruling is another wrench in the works for supporters.

Evans says, “What we care about is people who are in Brandon’s situation that need it, this isn’t a matter of wants, it’s a matter of need.”

Needless to say, the latest ruling reaffirms the notion that there are risks for anyone who smokes pot, whether recreational, or medical. Coats and his attorney now hope the Colorado Supreme Court will hear their case.

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