While the citizens of Colorado have enacted laws to permit the sale and use of marijuana, the state Supreme Court ruled 6-0 on Monday that a medical marijuana patient who was fired after failing a drug test cannot get his job back.
The bizarre ruling in the closely watched case makes Colorado the fourth state in which courts have ruled against medical marijuana patients fired for taking their medicine.
Despite having medical conditions and doctor prescribed marijuana, federal laws still criminalize all uses of Marijuana, creating a loophole that allows employers to fire sick workers who need the drug.
Supreme courts in California, Montana and Washington state have all made similar rulings, while federal courts in Colorado and Michigan have rejected such claims.
Underscoring the absurdity of the law, the Colorado worker in question, Brandon Coats, is a quadriplegic who was fired by Dish Network after failing a 2010 drug test.
The loophole allows employers to legally remove sick employees, who use healthcare insurance and lead to increased premiums that must be paid mostly by employers.
In addition to being sick, they now face huge medical bills without insurance.
Dish Network agreed that Coats wasn’t high on the job and didn’t use marijuana at work but cited its zero-tolerance drug policy, a highly convenient excuse to part ways with the sick man.
Coats maintained that his pot smoking was legal under a state law intended to protect employees from being fired for legal activities that happen off the clock.
Yet the Colorado justices ruled that because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, Coats’ use of the drug wasn’t a legal off-duty activity. “There is no exception for marijuana use for medicinal purposes, or for marijuana use conducted in accordance with state law,” the court wrote in a ruling that will surely be outdated in short order.
“Although I’m very disappointed today, I hope that my case has brought the issue of use of medical marijuana and employment to light,” Coats said in a statement.
Coats was paralyzed in a car accident as a teenager and has had a prescription for medical marijuana since 2009, which he uses to help calm violent muscle spasms.