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Marijuana use and employment in Colorado - they may not mix

Much has been made of the statewide decision in Colorado to legalize certain aspects of marijuana use. Both Colorado and the State of Washington made similar decisions at voting time last year, but now the courts will have to sort through certain conflicts between state and federal law. As most of our readers probably know, despite the action at the state level in Colorado, marijuana is still considered an illegal drug at the federal level. And now, one of the first court rulings on the subject has some people fearing employment discrimination.

The ruling came from the Colorado Court of Appeals late last month, and the discrimination controversy is over the direct statement that employers are still allowed to fire employees who test positive for marijuana, regardless of the drug's legalization at the state level. The reasoning appears to be based on the fact that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.

Advocates for marijuana use on a medicinal level were particularly concerned about the ruling. There are indications that at some point down the road the Americans with Disabilities Act - a federal law - may come into play in future arguments over the issue.

For the most part, however, the controversy stems out of an employer being allowed to fire an employee for engaging in behavior that is legal - similar to alcohol or cigarette use. If an employer fired an employee after simply observing the employee drink a beer or smoke a cigarette, there is no doubt many would cry foul. This decision from the Court of Appeals is an early one in the ongoing marijuana debate at both the state and federal level, but many employees in Colorado are no doubt paying closer attention to the issue now.

Source: Union-Bulletin.com, "Court: Pot smokers can be fired, even where it's legal," Steven K. Paulson, April 30, 2013

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