Colorado Supreme Court Upholds Federal Marijuana Laws


Even though Colorado has legalized marijuana use, the court deferred to the federal statutes today in a 2010 case filed by a Colorado man.

Brandon Coats has been using medical marijuana as a quadriplegic, was fired from his job at Dish Network and challenged the state’s lawful activities statute.

Even though Colorado has legalized marijuana use, the court deferred to the federal statutes today in a 2010 case filed by a Colorado man.

The arguments from both Dish’s and Coats’ attorneys centered on the question of what exactly constitutes “lawful” use of medical marijuana outside of the workplace — and how such use can be considered lawful when federal law still classifies marijuana as an illegal substance, even though the state of Colorado has legalized its use both medically and recreationally.

“The Supreme Court holds that under… Colorado’s ‘lawful activities statute,’ the term ‘lawful’ refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law,” the Colorado court ruled. “Therefore, employees who engage in an activity such as medical marijuana use that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute.”

The court had been considering the case for nearly a year.

“Mr. Coats was never accused or suspected of being under the influence and received satisfactory performance reviews all three years [he worked at the company],” argued Coats’ attorney, Michael Evans, in front of the state Supreme Court last year.

Evans went on to argue that Coats’ use should fall under the state’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute.

While dish knew he was a medical marijuana patient, he was fired after the company performed a drug test and found THC in his system.



“He tested positive, had THC in his system,” Martinez said. “We are alleging that he was using THC at the workplace. The definition of use is in the medical marijuana act [Colorado’s Amendment 20]. It’s the employment of something, the longstanding possession of something. He smoked marijuana while at home, but he crossed the threshold [to his office] with THC in his system. The use is the effects, it’s the THC, it’s the whole point of marijuana. So when he came to work, he was using.”

Coats was fired from Dish Network, a satellite cable provider company based in Englewood, Colorado, more than five years ago, after testing positive for THC during a random drug test at work. Coats had been a patient on the state registry for about a year at that point, and was using medical marijuana based on a doctor’s recommendation. Evans told The Huffington Post that Coats had been a successful employee at the company, where he’d worked for three years serving in the customer service division as a telephone operator.

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