Employers Use of Drug Screening Medical Marijuana Appplicants

In a landmark decision by the Colorado Supreme Court, it has been ruled that even though marijuana is legal in the state of Colorado, federally it still considered an illegal drug which would violate employers’ right to keep a drug free workplace. The decision stems from a five year legal battle involving Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who had a medical marijuana license but was terminated from his job at Dish Network for failing a random drug test. His former employer argued that since marijuana was still considered a schedule I narcotic by the federal government, any use of it is illegal and grounds for termination. On June 15th the court agreed stating that “state laws that stop companies from firing people for doing a lawful activity only protect employees who are let go for activities that are legal under both state and federal law.” Medicinal marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000 and Mr. Coats had a medical doctor’s authorization to use it to control involuntary body movements and seizures. Coats maintained that without the drug he wouldn’t be able to hold down a job and insisted that he never took the drug while at work nor was he under the influence during his working hours. Coats’ attorney’s argued that Dish Network new about him being a medical marijuana patient, but fired him after “an unknown type or amount of THC was found” through a random mouth swab. This is one of the most sensitive part of this story: the mere presence of THC in saliva, hair, or blood is not proof of being under the influence (there is not a test that can determine if someone is currently under the influence of the drug) and traces of it can come up weeks or months after use. If employers in Colorado or any state for that matter want to foster a 100% drug free work place they most certainly can even if an employee has a license that says they can use marijuana for medicinal purposes.