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In this Dec. 6, 2012 file photo, Brandon Coats works on his computer at his home in Denver. Coats, a quadriplegic medical marijuana patient, was fired from his job in 2010 as a telephone operator at Dish Network after testing positive for marijuana. The Colorado Court of Appeals on Thursday, April 25, 2013, upheld the firing of Coats, saying that there is no employment protection for people who use marijuana. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Can an employer fire you for taking a legal medicine on your own time that has no effect on your job performance?

If it is medical marijuana, they can.

Brandon Coats had an exemplary employment record, but was fired by Dish Networks because he failed a drug test for marijuana. He is disabled and confined to a wheelchair as a result of a car accident. He takes medical marijuana to help with his muscle spasms.

Dish Networks has a zero-tolerance drug policy.

The case will be heard by the Colorado Supreme Court this year.

Naturally, big business interest groups support the firing. The National Federation of Independent Business said “We would not tolerate any attempt to infringe on the employers’ right to a zero-tolerance drug policy.”

Even though Colorado has a Lawful Activities Statutes that prohibits firing for any off-duty lawful activity, a lower court upheld his firing.

Their reasoning, in a split decision, was that any activity that remains illegal under Federal law, cannot be considered lawful.

So in spite of the fact that Colorado has now legalized marijuana use for anyone, the Federal law is still a stumbling block to employee rights, according to the courts thus far.

Federal marijuana law is defined under the Controlled Substances Act. This is why the Rescheduling of marijuana out of Schedule I is critical.  

Schedule I is reserved for substances that have no accepted medical use, and are highly addictive. Both are patently not true for marijuana, yet the Feds have been hesitant to fix this problem.

Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is again leading the charge to get marijuana removed from Schedule I.

Fixing the Federal Controlled Substances act will free the states from fears of a Federal crackdown over any marijuana reform, legalization, decriminalization, or medical research.

And it will give the courts no reason to continue the unfair employment discrimination for Brandon and countless patients everywhere.

Originally posted to davematson on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 05:33 AM PST.

Also republished by DKos Cannabis Law and Drug War Reform.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You Can't Infringe the Constitutional Rights of (4+ / 0-)

    citizens.

    Corporations, not their employees, are citizens.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 05:35:56 AM PST

  •  This is why we will have to legalize it state by (7+ / 0-)

    state, one election at a time.

    Once marijuana is properly legal then this issue becomes moot.

    Medical marijuana becomes moot.

    We will buy and use marijuana as we see fit and the days of worrying about losing one's job 2 and a half weeks after smoking some pot will be relegated to the dustbin of history.

    yes, technically people with Dr's recommendations and offical cards SHOULD be given a pass on their piss tests, but piss tests did not evolve to cut people slack. They evolved to FIRE marijuana smokers who dont have the decency to fail in life and who actually work and contribute to society.

    But republican entities such as the Chamber of Commerce are working hard to spread reefer madness where intelligent conversation needs to be:

    he California Chamber of Commerce and other groups representing employers are starting to line up to oppose the initiative to legalize marijuana, charging that Proposition 19 would allow pot smokers to light up on the job and operate dangerous equipment while stoned.
    Again, people who oppose the reformation of marijuana laws have NO science on their side, Common Sense is not on their side, well-reasoned arguments based on science are not on their side: mean-spirited shittiness they got.

    The fight will continue, we will win: how do you ask that one person to be the last person needlessly FUCKED by America's fucking stupid marijuana laws?

    And in the future when this is all fixed, those scumbags who kept this illegal - we aren't going to forget who you are and your ass will be grass in the media.

    Legal means "good".
    [41984 | Feb 4, 2005]

    by xxdr zombiexx on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 05:56:06 AM PST

  •  medicinal drugs are still drugs. (10+ / 0-)

    If they have a 'zero tolerance drug policy' they should be firing all the people who take metformin, lipitor, lopressor, and every other drug.  (Alcohol? Caffeine?)

    If medicinal marijuana is legal where he is, and it was prescribed for him, I don't see how he could lose his case, unless the courts simply scream 'reefer madness!' and ignore all sanity.

    •  Agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN

      It makes no sense, other than arbitrary enforcement of stupid rules because....

      ... I honestly even don't know what is in it for the employer.

      But the lower courts have so far supported the company's right to fire him.

      This is an employee rights issue as much as it is a medical marijuana issue.

      •  Employee? Rights? (3+ / 0-)

        We have  long way to go to reclaim that concept. In too many states, and inside too many Inside-the-Beltway heads, employees are expected to be grovelingly grateful to be allowed to work at all.

        If it's
        Not your body,
        Then it's
        Not your choice
        And it's
        None of your damn business!

        by TheOtherMaven on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 06:25:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Testing for legal substances is employer abuse (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, CenPhx

          You could make a case for banning any substance use, even legal ones for someone who works at a nuclear power plant.

          But this guy works in customer service and answers the phone. His medical marijuana use literally impacts no one.

          Also, if he took any other medicine, he'd be fine.

          Letting employers make capricious decisions about a person's health care decisions is...

          wait, where have I heard this before?

          •  No one should be between you and your healthcare (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            davematson, Darwinian Detrius, CenPhx

            ... except Republicans, employers, insurance companies, religious officials....

            It's amazing, isn't it?  Republicans get into such a horrible dudgeon about Dems 'putting themselves in between you and your doctor', when and if it means you'll actually get better and more care, or get to make your own choices, but as long as it means you'll be forced into doing whatever it is they want, they'll vote to make sure you have no rights and no choices.

          •  Are you goint to make a case against someone (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Darwinian Detrius, worldlotus

            at a nuc plant on pseudofed? Or any number of opioid pain killers?

            Having MJ is the blood isn't at this point a good indicator of being under the influence of said medication anyhow, for recreational or medicinal users.

            The tests were created to detect minute amounts in the blood for the sole purposes of drug busts. It's not like alcohol where we know approximately when you drank last.

            We only know in a three month window that you had MJ, not how much and when.

            Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

            by GreenMother on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 07:04:23 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I read somewhere revently, and wish I had saved (0+ / 0-)

              the link, but I didn't---so someone correct me if they know better, but,

              Oklahoma has laws on the books that if you pop positive on a piss test--a urinalysis, that you can be retro-charged for DUI or something like, if you have a drivers license, not because you are actually stoned, but because you have enough in your urine to indicate that you used at all at some past date.

              If the material I read with regard to this is true, then I foresee a lot of test cases in the near future, with our neighbor status with Colorado.

              Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

              by GreenMother on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 05:38:29 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Lawful Activities Statute prevents that. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nextstep
      If they have a 'zero tolerance drug policy' they should be firing all the people who take metformin, lipitor, lopressor, and every other drug.  (Alcohol? Caffeine?)
      Marijauna is not "legal" in Colorado in a federal sense.  There's just no state law criminalizing his use.
    •  Or oxycontontin, oxycodone, Hydrocodone, etc., (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      davematson

      Xanax

      Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

      by GreenMother on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 07:01:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is why they only focus on the slang term (0+ / 0-)

      marijuana (marihuana) and completely sidestep a discussion of the actual herbal cannabinoid drugs found in cannabis resins. The prohibitionists are always very careful to frame their arguments around the mythology they have created about the obscure slang term marihuana over the decades. I think we need to stop allowing this framing of the arguments.

      Marijuana is not a drug, it's a slang term or rhetorical device created to villianize the entire genus of cannabis plants. As the drug found in coffee is called caffeine and the drug found in tobacco is called nicotine, the primary drugs in cannabis plants are called cannabinoids. When we are talking about the medicinal effects of these cannabinoids we need to stop talking about marijuana. It is only a device being used on us to confuse the debate. Please, let's stop falling for this bullshit.

      Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

      by RMForbes on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 01:21:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  We need a federal solution. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davematson

    I don't think we're getting one under Obama, so it'll be 2016 or later, I'm afraid.

  •  For some people Medical Marijuana is a life or (5+ / 0-)

    death issue.

    People use it independently to treat cancer, and they use it to reduce the symptoms of chemo as a complimentary therapy.

    I wouldn't buy goods from an employer that fired people over that, and I mean I will boycott the assholes, because that's what they are.

    Other things that Medical MJ is used for: Veterans with severe PTSD (anyone else too) Severe anxiety, as in you become a shut in, people who have AIDs use it to increase their appetite and help with pain management, same with advanced, terminal cancer patients, people with seizure disorders use it so they don't seize to death (CBDs are amazing) and I am sure there is more.

    Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

    by GreenMother on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 06:59:10 AM PST

    •  Yes, please talk about the medicinal value of CBD (0+ / 0-)

      and other cannabinoids but can we please stop talking about the slang terms for the dried female flowers and leaves of some varieties of cannabis plants like it's the same thing as these cannabinoids or all varieties of cannabis plants. That's what the prohibitionists want you to do.

      Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

      by RMForbes on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 01:27:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's not why the prohibitions exist. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RMForbes

        The prohibitions were put in place a long long time ago. Watch reefer madness. Everything they describe in that flick has more in common with opiate addition, or even the use of meth (which was made even way way back in the day).

        You know my mom used to paranoid about me and pot. I didn't use it. I was a goodytwoshoes, but that woman went to work with parents all day, who had kids who did serious drugs and it made her paranoid.

        Like the government, she pretended she knew what it was all about, bless her heart. She could have had a stand alone sequel to reefer madness.

        There are several different strains of Cannabis Sativa, or Marijuana, and those strains are bred to contain different levels of THC and CBD.

        Whether you are a dispensary or a medical patient on the sly, people either buy products legally with the concentrations, of the varieties that contain psychoactives they want, OR, they make their own.

        I have no problem with the terminology with marijuana, it's been around in our culture so long, that most people have a passing association with it via pop culture.

        The only reason that MJ seems to be so alternative is the prohibition.

        Most people think of alcohol in terms of purely recreational use, but I could make extracts of potent herbs using high quality vodka or wine, or everclear. However during The Prohibition, I am sure it would have been called Demon Rum just like everything else or Hooch or Moonshine "For Medicinal Purposes". And there would have been a wink and nudge to indicate that version of "Yea Sure, Medicinal Purposes".

        The reason the debate went so badly wasn't the terminology--that was invented to convey the fear-frame associated with poverty, immigrants, racism, and classism, and religious bigotry.

        Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

        by GreenMother on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 05:49:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are wrong about the history of cannabis (0+ / 0-)

          prohibition. It was as I wrote, the Marihuana Tax Act targeted cannabis hemp plants but used recreational use by Jazz musicians and possibly Mexican migrant workers as a scapegoat to get the law through Congress. Anslinger knew very well that a Cannabis Tax Act, Hemp Tax Act or even a Hashish Tax Act would not even make to the floor for debate since these items were very popular ingredients in many products of the day.

          It was in the sensationalized stories of the tabloid style newspapers owned by robber baron William Randolf Hearst in which these stories that were later used by Anslinger as evidence in Congress told of Mexican's committing horrendous crimes under the influence of "Marihuana". Marijuana at the time was only an obscure slang term for any wild plant that could be smoked like tobacco. Marihuana was not linked to the cannabis plants, again in the Heart Newspapers, until after the invention of the hemp decorticator which threatened the forest paper products industry dominated by W R Hearst himself.

          I think it would be wise to remove the word marijuana from our lexicon completely and simply replace it with more precise terms like herbal cannabis, cannabis plants, cannabinoids and THC. It's more effective if we avoid slang terms that mean different things to different people when we are in a debate.

          Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

          by RMForbes on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 10:24:56 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  "Zero tolerance" policies... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RMForbes

    are a tool designed to keep people down. Poverty is good, say the oligarchs, because it makes people try harder to pull themselves up, yet there they are, stomping on our fingers and knocking us down before we even have a chance to finish school in a lot of cases. Yeah, we're supposed to be struggling and working as hard as we can, but that's just so they can wring the maximum profit out of us, not so we can actually get anywhere.

    One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain -Bob Marley

    by Darwinian Detritus on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 07:06:59 AM PST

  •  Unfortunately (0+ / 0-)

    The Americans With Disabilities Act explicitly does not cover use of alcohol/illegal drugs.

    •  Marijuana is not a drug (0+ / 0-)

      It's a slang term that was created to villianize the entire genus of cannabis plants. Cannabis hemp was actually the real target and the obscure slang term marijuana became a perfect scapegoat to create the prohibition preventing hemp from competing in the paper products industry or against new synthetic nylon fiber products.

      In the early 1930's hemp was making a comeback because of the invention of the hemp decorticator which threatened the profit margins of industries controlled by very powerful people like newspaper baron William Randolf Hearst and ex-Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellow. Hearst owned a near monopoly in the timber paper products industry and Mellon was the primary financier of DuPont which had just developed nylon fiber products. This is what led to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

      Like the drug in coffee is called caffeine and the drug in tobacco is called nicotine, the drugs found in cannabis resins are called cannabinoids.  

      Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

      by RMForbes on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 01:44:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As much as it sucks (0+ / 0-)

    As much as zero tolerance policies are moronic. It's hard to argue with the court's logic. Obviously it would have to be prescribed by a doctor and we have to get rid of the federal prohibitions.

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