If Colorado Worker Tests Positive for Marijuana: So What?

A recent news article from the Christian Science Monitor reported there is a great deal of controversy surrounding how to handle recreational marijuana use with its legalization in Colorado.


Our marijuana defense lawyers know that with the marijuana laws of Colorado set to change on January 1, 2014 there is controversy and confusion about how to handle recreational use.

There are many interesting questions that need to be answered. If a company currently has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use can the company really terminate that employee during this period prior recreational use being legalized?

The changes in the law will allow individuals to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana at a time.

Other questions will have to be answered as Colorado and Washington state forge ahead with the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Do organizations have discretion to limit or deny workers the ability to use marijuana during non-work hours?

Can certain types of workers still be regulated such as school teachers, public transit drivers, and officers of the law?

The looming question in all state marijuana legislation situations is how does federal law affect state laws that legalize medicinal and recreational use of marijuana?

Unfortunately, the final question seems to be decided in favor of federal law, which still outlaws the use of marijuana.

Employers are struggling to find an answer to the questions regarding workers. Experts seem to think that employers will devise policies and protocols that do no alienate their own workers but also cover themselves from liability.

Many employers are wishing state legislators provided a little more direction about shaping marijuana policy.

The big questions surrounding marijuana legislation will be decided in the coming years by the court system.

In an April 2013 case the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the firing of a man who was using marijuana. The problem: the man was a quadriplegic who only used his medicinal marijuana during non-work hours.

The Colorado Court of Appeals concluded that due to the fact that marijuana is outlawed under federal law, workers do not have protection to use it at anytime. It is important to note that Colorado’s Supreme Court has not yet stated whether it would hear an appeal on this case.

A federal district court ruled that an employee who tested positive for marijuana could be fired pursuant to his company’s written drug policy – despite the fact that the employee stated that he had never used marijuana on company premises and was never under the influence of marijuana while working.

Although this individual had a disability a Judge wrote: anti-discrimination law does not extend so far as to shield a disabled employee from implementation of the employer’s standard policies.

The Colorado CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.

More Blog Entries:

The Feds Backtrack on Marijuana Policy: Planned “Enforcement Actions” in Colorado, November 28, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog
Flying With Marijuana Now Legal? Oct. 17, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog
Additional Resources:

Inside America’s Pot Industry Slideshow, CNBC Slide show.

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