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Marijuana Legalization Creates Vast Employment Issues


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1/6/2016
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Marijuana for recreational use has been approved in four states: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, as well as Washington D.C.  While these states prevent the activity from being illegal within their territories, the citizens in these states cannot escape the still existing federal law that makes marijuana illegal.  The federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no acceptable medical use.  While many states have made marijuana use legal for medical purposes, and fewer for recreational purposes, users of the drug in these states are still subject to the federal ban.  This dichotomy is presenting significant legal issues for many people and in many areas of the law, and will most likely for some time.  A recent Colorado Supreme Court decision addressed how the discrepancies can affect employees.  Colorado has a statute that prevents employers from taking adverse employment action against an employee for the employee engaging in lawful activities off the job.  At first glance, recreational marijuana use is a "lawful activity" now under Colorado state laws, but it is still not a lawful activity under federal law.  The Court ruled that the lawful activity statute applies only to activities that are lawful under both Colorado and federal law. See Coats v. Dish Network.  Thus, an employer can fire someone in Colorado for engaging in recreational marijuana use off the job.  Until courts come to an agreement on how to address these issues, all recreational marijuana users should be wary of the implications even if the activity is lawful in their state.



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