Colorado High Court to Rule on Medical Marijuana Use Off-Work


Brandon Coats and his attorney Michael Evans.

The Colorado Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments on why medical marijuana patients should have the right to use their medicine off work.
As we wrote on Monday, the case stems from the firing of Brandon Coats, a paraplegic former DISH Network call-center operator who tested positive for marijuana in a drug test but contends that he was never high on the job. He says he was open about his medical cannabis use to his bosses, and that they simply targeted him for firing knowing a hot test would mean the end of his job.

Coats says he needed cannabis to function, using it at night so he could get sleep and control spasms. He says his exemplary work record shows that he was a model employee. He’s fighting not for on-work use, but to allow for patients like him to use cannabis off-work and not face consequences. As it stands, Coats is being treated the same way he would be if had showed up drunk. That wasn’t the case.
Attorneys for DISH don’t care about the facts though.
“It doesn’t matter if he’s impaired or not,” DISH attorney Meghan Martinez told USA Today. “Medical marijuana is not lawful in Colorado … therefore it cannot be a lawful activity.”
Apparently Martinez isn’t up on Colorado law. Medical marijuana is lawful in Colorado.
“The writing’s on the wall: I suspect that within a few years, marijuana is going to make that transition and be treated like alcohol, and employers are going to have to deal with it. At some point, we’re going to have to come up with a better scheme,” Coats told reporters yesterday. “This case will settle it, but it will only be temporary.”
Coats attorney, Michael Evans, reminded the court that medical marijuana is lawful in Colorado and pointed out that Coats was never in a hazardous position at work and that nobody ever accused him of being high on the job.
“We’re getting very confusing and mixed messages from everywhere,” Evans said. “We know this is not going away. We need to get this clarified. Let’s not put our head in the sand, and (let’s) deal with this reasonably.”
The court will consider the oral arguments from yesterday when making their decision. No word on when that will be.
At least one activist group has jumped in the fray. As we wrote earlier this week, activist Kathleen Chippi medical marijuana patients in the state could be left completely in the dark if the Supreme Court makes the same ruling as the state appeals court. So Chippi has filed an amicus brief with the court – which is basically a well-noted opinion for the court to consider while making their decision. Chippi and the Patient-Caregivers Rights Coalition say they are hopeful that the judge will have some compassion and common sense.
“If the court rules patients have rights but federal law preempts, than anything related to federal aid, federal housing, banking, student loans, organ transplants or cultivation/possession/use will still be at risk,” she writes. “In our opinion, the court will most likely not rule against patient rights and against federal preemption–which would mean the patients still have all risks above at a state level, but not at a federal level.”