Legalization vs Misuse of Marijuana Law

Posted by Sagar Satapathy on October 01, 2014.

Even though Marijuana is legalized under the Colorado law, the citizens may not have the right to use it at will. It became evident when the Supreme Court considers a case to determine what employment protections marijuana users have. The court will rule whether somebody, who uses marijuana in off-duty hours can be fired by the employer or not.

The employers in Colorado have adopted a zero-tolerance drug policy. However, Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic, has challenged the decision of his employer Dish Network, which fired him four years ago after failing a drug test. Coats contends that he has been using medical marijuana since 2009 as prescribed by the doctors. Thus, he cannot be held guilty for using the drug during off-duty hours.

Coats says that he only used marijuana during off-duty hours and never took it at work. His lawyers produced the documents to prove his medical status and argued that the use of medical marijuana in Coats' case should be treated like alcohol or any other legal substance. They further claim that Colorado's Lawful Activities Statute protects employees from being punished for legal, off-duty behavior.

Lawyers of Dish Network and the state of Colorado argue that the use of marijuana - whether medical or recreational, remains illegal under the federal law. The state's court had ruled in favor of Dish Network in 2013, which forced Coats to move the Supreme Court.

Many independent observers believe that the Supreme Court will uphold the ruling given by the state court and rule against Coats. They cite the examples of Supreme Court ruling in four other states - California, Montana, Oregon and Washington where the fired employees had failed to get any relief.

Currently, 23 states in the United States, including the District of Columbia, have legalized medical marijuana, while Colorado and Washington have legalized it for recreational use. However, all eyes are now on the Colorado Supreme Court whose ruling may have far-reaching consequences in the months to come.

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