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Man fired for medical marijuana loses wrongful termination suit

Readers likely know that Colorado voters recently decided to legalize marijuana in the state. People can age 21 or over can now possess and grow small amounts of marijuana, and also purchase some from authorized stores for personal use. Prior to that, voters approved an amendment in 2000 to allow medical use of the drug. These changes have moved marijuana use in Denver and throughout the state into the mainstream, but do these laws protect people from getting fired for using a substance that is no longer illegal?

A Colorado man who used medical marijuana to treat his quadriplegia has lost his wrongful termination case against Dish Network, which fired him despite his legally sanctioned drug use. The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's dismissal of the man's claim, ruling that the law does not protect medical marijuana users from termination.

Dish fired the man after he tested positive for marijuana during a drug test. He later sued his former employer for wrongful termination. He argued that his marijuana use was legal under the Colorado Medical Marijuana Amendment. Since he never used marijuana at work or allowed it to affect his job performance, the plaintiff said, Dish did not have the right to fire him.

Dish moved to dismiss the lawsuit and the trial court granted the motion. The court said that the Medical Marijuana Amendment protected users from prosecution but did not create a general right to use it, even for medicinal purposes. In a split decision, the appellate court agreed, though the dissenting judge wrote that the plaintiff's claim that his marijuana use was lawful off-duty activity should have been litigated.

With marijuana use now generally protected by law, it would be interesting to see how a similar wrongful termination case would be decided.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Dish Backed for Axing Disabled Pot Smoker," Jeff D. Gorman, April 30, 2013

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