Employee Marijuana Use: Companies Still Have a Say

Last year Colorado made national headlines for adopting a statewide policy allowing sales of marijuana to the general public without a medical necessity.  In June  2015, Colorado made headlines again setting precedence for employers who don’t condone employees having THC, the primary chemical found marijuana, in their system.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in favor of an employer who had terminated an employee based on medical marijuana use during non-business hours.  The case took into account both the state’s legal standing on the drug as well as the plaintiff’s medical requirements and still sided in favor of the employer.
The company, Dish Network LLC, has it recreational marijuana at workwritten in their policy manual that they have no tolerance for the use of marijuana by their employees.  Since marijuana remains illegal under federal law the Colorado Supreme Court came to a unanimous 6-0 decision that the company acted appropriately.

The plaintiff, Brandon Coats, is a quadriplegic who was issued a medicinal marijuana prescription to control seizures.  He argued that his use of the drug was never while on the job, however it still violated the company’s nationwide drug-free policy.  Having a clearly defined policy for employee conduct was a major contributor in Dish Network’s success regarding the case.

The decision to rely on federal law in this case sets a precedence, not just for Colorado, but for all states who legalize the drug either medical or recreational.

States that currently permit use of Marijuana include:

Medicinal Use Only

· Arizona· California

· Connecticut

· Delaware

· Hawaii

· Illinois

· Maine

· Maryland

· Massachusetts

· Michigan

· Minnesota· Montana

· Nevada

· New Hampshire

· New Jersey

· New Mexico

· New York

· Rhode Island

· Vermont


Recreational and Medicinal Use

• Alaska

• Colorado

• Oregon

• Washington

• Washington D.C.

For a map of states that legalize the use of Marijuana, click here.

So long as Marijuana is deemed illegal under federal statutes employers are within their rights to take action against employees, and even applicants, they discover to have THC in their system.

Property managers may recall that late last year the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a memorandum clarifying their stance on the matter in which HUD  sided with federal law, choosing to ignore state permissions and continuing to ban the substance in multifamily assisted properties.  The new ruling extends this decision to all employees working with multifamily properties regardless of the state they reside in.

In order to protect your business as more states begin to adopt a policy of tolerance, it is in your company’s best interest to choose a position and update your written policy to reflect it.  Unless the federal law is changed, employers still have a say over the type of outside activities employees engage in that will be acceptable for the workplace.

To learn more about the case of Brandon Coats v. Dish Network, LLC, Click Here.

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My past, present, and future have me perpetually building experience with increasing complexity in logistical management (eg. trade show/event planning and; execution), developing S.M.A.R.T. programs with an eye for remaining specific and measurable throughout, recognizing the importance of not providing only three examples to demonstrate a point, and remembering to always put my most compelling messages at the beginning of the content.

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