Colorado Employers can Still Fire Employees for Smoking Marijuana

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While some Colorado marijuana smokers were likely thinking they won’t get fired if they tested positive for the drug, they might want to think again.

An Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force has backed a recommendation that allows employers to continue firing workers over smoking marijuana during their leisure time.

While some members of the force argued that the amendment was made to give marijuana the same protection as alcohol use, one of the authors said it meant to take a “more incremental approach to liberalizing marijuana laws.”

Christian Sederberg said, “We intended to leave employers to have their own policies on these issues.”

The proposal was adopted Tuesday and is one of the most significant recommendations the task force has endorsed.

This comes months after Brandon Coats, a Dish Network operator, was fired after he tested positive for marijuana after it was legalized in the state.

He filed a lawsuit against the company, and though it involved medical marijuana, it caused many to wonder how recreational smoking would affect employee drug testing.

Attorney Vance Knapp said marijuana testing by employers will likely still occur, as marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

“These are things that employers are definitely concerned about,” Knapp said. “For policy reasons, we want to make sure we have a safe workplace. And obviously, that has to be balanced against employees’ rights in Amendment 64.”

Many employers have said they are optimistic about their ability to deter workers from smoking marijuana. And as long as marijuana remains federally illegal, there’s not much employees can do about it.

“As long as it’s illegal under federal law,” Knapp said. “it cannot, by definition, be lawful.”

Those employers who hire on a national scale will certainly not be lenient on potential employees who live in one of the two states where marijuana is legal.

“I think people who voted for 502 [Washington’s pot legalization law] will be really surprised that if you use it in your home, in accordance with the imitative, you can still get fired,” attorney Michael Subit said.