Amendment 64, the ballot initiative that voters approved in 2012 to legalize recreational weed in Colorado, says that “marijuana should be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol,” but that hasn’t made the plant equal to alcohol in the eyes of many employers. At companies across Colorado, testing positive for marijuana is still legal grounds for dismissal, even if your employer acknowledges that you weren’t high on the job.
Over seven years after Coloradans legalized marijuana, state lawmakers may finally be ready to address the issue this year. Introduced by Representative Jovan Melton (D- Aurora), House Bill 1089 “prohibits an employer from terminating an employee” for “lawful off-duty activities,” even if those activities are illegal under federal law.
Melton, who sponsored bills for new medical marijuana conditions and legalizing social consumption in previous legislative sessions, says the cause was easy to get behind after cannabis activists at the Colorado branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws approached him before the beginning of the 2020 session, and shared the story of Brandon Coats. A paralyzed medical marijuana patient, Coats was fired from his job at DISH Network in 2012 after testing positive for medical marijuana. He sued DISH over the firing, arguing that he was never under the influence at work. The company didn’t argue against Coats’s claim, instead pointing to a Colorado law that says the term “lawful” refers only to activities that are legal under both state and federal law.
The Colorado Supreme Court eventually agreed with DISH in 2015, ruling that companies could fire employees for legal, off-duty marijuana use, because it isn’t clearly defined as lawful under state law.
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“I can’t believe we’ve had this much oversight and lack of protection for someone who’s using medical marijuana, or recreational, which