Colorado unemployment law – marijuana user disqualified

Posted by: Jun 16, 2015By Brian Stutheit

The law in Colorado is that someone can be fired for using medical marijuana.  The law also is that an employee is

disqualified from unemployment benefits if fired for marijuana.

The ruling of the Colorado Supreme Court in Coats v. Dish Network, June 15, 2015 allowed an employer to fire an employee for marijuana use.  Brandon Coats was fired by Dish for using prescribed marijuana during non-working hours.  His marijuana use was caught on a random drug test.  He claimed he was protected by Colorado’s “lawful activity” statute.  This statute generally protects an employee against getting fired based on the employee’s “lawful” outside of work activities.

The Supreme Court held in Coats that marijuana use is still “unlawful” under federal law.  Therefore, medical marijuana is not a lawful activity protected by the Colorado statute.  The Court left room for the Colorado General Assembly to change the “lawful activity” statute to make it more clear that medical marijuana use is a protected lawful activity.

In 2011 the Colorado Court of Appeals held that an employee fired after testing positive for medical marijuana was not entitled to unemployment benefits.  He contended that he was entitled to benefits because he legally obtained and used marijuana under the Colorado Constitution for a medically-documented purpose.  The Court said although the medical certification permitting the possession and use of marijuana may protect a person from state criminal prosecution, it does not preclude him from being denied unemployment benefits based on a discharge from employment for testing positive for marijuana in violation of an employer’s zero-tolerance drug policy.

So the law now is, use marijuana and you could it and lose your job and unemployment benefits.