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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Colorado Supreme Court Will Hear Appeal of Employee Terminated for Marijuana Use

The Colorado Supreme Court recently announced that it would hear the appeal of an employee who was fired by his employer for using marijuana.  The employee, a quadriplegic man, lost his case at the court of appeals level after that court ruled that employers can fire workers for any marijuana use, even medical marijuana.  The Supreme Court announced it would be reviewing and considering two issues in this appeal: (1) whether a special Colorado law that protects legal, off-the-clock activities covers marijuana and (2) whether Colorado’s constitution gives medical marijuana patients a right to cannabis.

This appeal could have major impacts for how employers treat marijuana use by workers in Colorado.  If the Colorado Supreme Court reverses the lower court’s rulings, employers could no longer enforce "zero-tolerance" policies and would instead have to determine whether an employee's marijuana use is impacting his or her job performance before firing the employee. 

As more states allow medical marijuana (including Illinois, which passed legislation last year to legalize medical marijuana), more and more employers are questioning what rights they have to deal with employee use.  Although the decision by Colorado's high court on this issue will not apply to other states, it will still be a decision to watch.  

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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