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Earlier today the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that employers in Colorado can fire employees for cannabis use even if they are medical cannabis patients. At the center of today’s ruling is Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic that used cannabis to control leg spasms while off duty from his job. Coats had argued that his usage was protected under Colorado state law, but the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that he could be fired because cannabis is illegal under federal law.
Here are some key takeaways to help you understand today’s ruling:
This Ruling is Very Narrow
Law professor Sam Kamin told the Denver Post that the ruling "really comes down to interpreting this one word in this one statute." Because cannabis is not legal under federal law, the Court ruled that the Colorado law designed to protect those involved in “legal” activities performed while away from work did not apply.
Hopefully The Colorado Legislature Will Update The Law
Lawmakers in Colorado seemingly wanted to protect patients like Brandon Coats and it seems likely that they can update the law to protect future patients.
This Case Shows Why Passing CARERS is Important
While the Rohrabacher-Farr medical cannabis amendment is an important protection for medical cannabis patients, a court ruling like this reminds us why permanent and comprehensive federal reform of medical cannabis laws is so essential.
Passing the CARERS Act would end once and for all the questions about federal interference in state-level medical cannabis programs. With this greater clarity the chances of a negative court ruling based on federal law would be greatly reduced.
Another Reminder Why Fighting For Better State Laws is Necessary
Sadly in too many medical cannabis states the laws don’t offer employment discrimination at all. That’s why state-level activism to get the best possible law is so important. What happened to Brandon Coats is unconscionable, let’s fight to make sure we don’t see any more patients end up in a similar situation.