Colorado court says no employment protection for marijuana users, despite use considered lawful

DENVER - People who test positive for smoking pot can legally be fired from their job, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in deciding that there is no employment protection for marijuana users.

In a split decision issued on Thursday, the court said marijuana use is still barred by the federal government, even though state-licensed marijuana use has been approved by voters and is considered lawful.

The ruling comes in a case filed by a quadriplegic man who was fired after he tested positive for marijuana, even though there was no indication he used it while on company property.

Morgan Fox, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, said the ruling is a setback.

"It's unfortunate, considering how much support there is for medical marijuana that employers don't see this like any other medication," Fox said.

The case involves Brandon Coats, a telephone operator for Dish Network LLC. Paralyzed in a teenage car crash, he's also been a medical marijuana patient in Colorado since 2009. Coats was fired in 2010 for failing a company drug test, though his employer didn't claim he was ever impaired on the job.

Coats sued to get his job back, but a trial court dismissed his claim in 2011. The judge agreed with Dish Network that medical marijuana use isn't a "lawful activity" covered by the law.

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