The Colorado Supreme Court (?Court?) issued its long-awaited decision in a case involving a Dish Network (?DISH?) customer service worker who used medical marijuana to soothe painful spasms he suffers from since a car accident left him paralyzed. Dish terminated the worker in 2010 after he tested positive for marijuana in a random drug test.
In affirming the appellate court decision, the Court was unanimous in holding that ?under the plain language of section 24-34-402.5, C.R.S. (2014), Colorado?s ?lawful activities statute,? the term ?lawful? refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law. Therefore, employees who engage in an activity such as medical marijuana use that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute.
The decision highlights the limits of marijuana legalization at a time when more states are approving medical or recreational uses of a drug that is still outlawed as a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government. Indeed, twenty-three states allow medical marijuana, and Colorado is one of four that legalized recreational use for adults.
This decision brings Colorado into alignment with other state decisions that similarly provide that companies have the right to create their own drug policies against such drug use. What this means, practically, is that as long as the drug remains classified and regulated at the federal level, use remains unlawful. Accordingly, the states can?t do much to protect use that violates employer policies.
Smart Tip: Review your drug use policy to ensure that your rights are preserved in a way that is consistent with the federal, not state definitions and standards.