Last April, I wrote the post, “Dude, Pass the Chips,” that mentioned a Colorado Court of Appeals decision holding that an employee does not have a claim against his employer for being fired for medical marijuana use. On June 15, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court issued its decision affirming the Colorado Court of Appeals. You can read the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision the Colorado Bar website.
We now join the conversation in progress between Q and A from “Dude, Pass the Chips.”
Q: The Colorado Supreme Court is a buzz kill, man. Why can we be fired for using legal marijuana?
A: Marijuana may be legal in some contexts under Colorado law, but it remains illegal under federal law. The Colorado Supreme Court said that an employee who uses marijuana in compliance with state law does not have a wrongful termination claim under Colorado’s lawful activities statute, because marijuana use remains illegal under federal law.
Q: “Lawful activities” statute?
A: Colorado has a statute that an employer generally cannot fire an employee for the employee’s lawful activities done outside of work hours and not on the employer’s property. There are exceptions, of course.
Q: But Colorado legalized medical marijuana and recreational marijuana!
A: Again, federal law prohibits any marijuana use outside of a narrow exception for federally approved studies. Colorado’s lawful activities statute does not limit the definition of “lawful activities” to activities deemed lawful under state law. Since federal law criminalizes marijuana use, its use is not a “lawful activity” under the Colorado statute. Some states with medical marijuana or similar laws included employee protections, but Colorado did not.
Q: But other states, even Georgia, are legalizing some form of medical marijuana. Doesn’t that count for something?
A: It means public attitudes are changing. Even so, federal law still classifies the use of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana as crimes. What is that smell?
Q: I made brownies. Want one?
A: What is in it?
Q: Are you a cop?
A: I will pass, thank you.
This post provides general information only and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to be legal advice about a specific situation. Laws change and your situation may be different. You should consult with a licensed attorney for legal advice specific to your situation.