Employees take hit from Colorado Supreme Court and more 


Employees take hit

On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court dealt a blow to medical-marijuana patients when it confirmed that employees have no legal protection against being fired for off-duty use. Upholding two lower court rulings, the 6-0 decision came after Brandon Coats — a quadriplegic medical-cannabis user who was fired by Dish Network in 2010 after testing positive for pot — sued the company for wrongful termination, but lost repeatedly.

This latest and final setback, like the others, turned on the interpretation of the phrase "lawful activity" in Colorado's Lawful Off-Duty Activities statute. It reads, "It is a discriminatory or unfair employment practice for an employer in Colorado to terminate the employment of any employee due to that employee's engaging in any lawful activity off the premises of the employer during nonworking hours." Coats' attorneys argued the guideline should be state, not federal, law.

Writing for the court, Justice Allison H. Eid says, "The term 'lawful' as it is used in section 24-34-402.5 is not restricted in any way, and we decline to engraft a state law limitation onto the term. Therefore, an activity such as medical marijuana use that is unlawful under federal law is not a 'lawful' activity under section 24-34-402.5. Accordingly, we affirm the opinion of the court of appeals."

In a press release quoted by the Denver Post, Coats' attorney Michael Evans called the results "devastating," continuing: "Today's decision means that until someone in the [Colorado] House or Senate champions the cause, most employees who work in a state with the world's most powerful MMJ laws will have to choose between using MMJ and work."

On the other hand, tweets 9NEWS reporter Brandon Rittiman, "[Human resources] expert tells me despite ruling, many CO employers (esp. in hospitality) have dumped THC testing so they can fill jobs."

Statistically speaking ...

This week, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released statistics on resident marijuana use in Colorado in 2014. The survey shows that 13.6 percent of respondents age 18 and up currently use cannabis, including 12 percent in El Paso County (or roughly 79,000 people). Among current users, one in three use marijuana daily, while almost one in five report driving afterward.

Men use more than women — 17.2 percent versus 10 percent — with those aged 18 to 24 getting their weed on at 10 times the rate of those older than 65. Broken down by race, blacks represent the highest rate of use followed by whites and Hispanics. LGBT adults partake at over twice the rate of heterosexuals.

The rate of Coloradan respondents age 21 and up who have ever used marijuana is 49.5 percent, with the rate of "ever use" increasing with educational attainment. Similarly, "adults with higher incomes are more likely to have used marijuana."


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