Companies typically have a zero-tolerance policy for drugs to reduce any risks connected with employees under the influence. Yet, more and more states are legalizing medical marijuana. It’s difficult for both employers and employees to determine whether a company can fire a worker who fails a drug test but has a medical marijuana card.
Back in 2000, Colorado citizens voted to legalize medical marijuana under Amendment 20. However, medical marijuana is legal under state law but still illegal under federal law. The double standard leaves many employees wondering if they can be fired for using medical marijuana.
The Basics of Amendment 20 and the Workplace
A medical marijuana card does not allow the holder to use marijuana at work. Employers are required by law not to allow medical marijuana use on the job or let a worker be under the influence while working. Colorado workers’ compensation will deduct 50% of benefits if an employee is injured because they were impaired by medical marijuana.
Despite the state constitutional protections that legalization offers, employers are still allowed to have policies in place that restrict the use of marijuana by their employees. In fact, the Colorado State Constitution specifically states employers do not have to accommodate the use of medical marijuana in the workplace.
At the moment, rather than government mandates and regulations, employer-set policies seem to dominate how medical marijuana is handled in the workplace.
Legal History of Marijuana in the Workplace
An employer’s right to restrict the use of medical marijuana in the workplace was affirmed in Colorado, and the state supreme court ruled in favor of employers. In a court case, a Dish Network employee was fired in 2010 for testing positive for marijuana following a car crash. Dish Network argued that even though he was not smoking on the job, the company had a right to enforce a zero-tolerance policy.
However, Colorado does have an off-duty conduct law. The law prohibits employers from firing an employee for engaging in legal activities on their own time. In the case of Dish Network, the Court ruled that even if the use of marijuana is legal under state law, it is not legal federally, and therefore, it is not legal activity under Colorado’s off-duty conduct law.
Forbidding illegal activity does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since medical marijuana is still federally prohibited, not allowing employees to possess or be under the influence of marijuana at work would be reasonable.
Current Legislative Action
In January, lawmakers introduced a new bill that aims to treat marijuana use like alcohol use. Essentially, this bill would block employers from firing employees for using medical marijuana on their own time. This law would protect those who partake in legal things under Colorado law, even if they are still illegal federally.
Additionally, pro-marijuana groups drafted a bill that would make it unlawful to fire an employee for testing positive for marijuana on a drug test. Employers would only have reason to fire employees if they were in possession of, used, or were impaired by marijuana during work hours.
Contact the Attorneys at the Mintz Law Firm
If you’ve been fired from your job because of medical marijuana, it’s essential to know the law surrounding the usage of medical marijuana and how it relates to work environments. Consider reaching out to one of the skilled attorneys at the Mintz Law Firm. Our team is passionate about achieving justice for all of our clients. With over 150 years of combined experience, Mintz Law Firm’s attorneys know how to achieve the best results for clients in Colorado.
To schedule a free consultation, call (303) 462-2999 or complete our online contact form.