Probably the most common question I get is ‘I smoked X amount of days ago. I have a drug test on fill in the blank day and I’m worried that I won’t pass my drug test at work. Do you think the marijuana is still in my system?’ I’ve got a question similar to that about five times a day for the last year. The question has morphed recently to something like ‘If I travel to Colorado, smoke legal marijuana, can I be fired at my job back home if they drug test me?’
Sadly, the answer is yes, you can be fired for smoking legal marijuana, recreational and/or medicinal. Medical marijuana has been legal since 1996 when it was passed in California, and has since spread to 20 states and Washington D.C. Even legal medical marijuana patients can get fired for consuming marijuana. One recent case involves Brandon Coats. Brandon Coats worked for the Dish Network, then got fired after failing a drug test. He lost at his original trial, and then lost at the Appellate Court level. He is currently waiting for the Colorado Supreme Court to hear his case.
To quote Mr. Coats attorney:
“If Mr. Coats can’t win this case, then nobody can,” Coats’ attorney Michael Evans told Salon. “He’s about as bad as you can get in terms of physical disability … He was a great employee, and they admit that he was never impaired [at work]… He was following all of the laws.”
There are numerous other cases like Mr. Coat’s out there. Most state websites for medical marijuana programs specifically say that you can still be fired in their frequently asked questions. On the city of Denver’s newly created website, it specifically states in the frequently asked questions:
Can employers restrict or prohibit marijuana use or possession by employees at the workplace?
Answer – Yes. Employers are allowed to regulate or prohibit the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana in the workplace. Employers may also enact policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees.
Even after marijuana has become legal in many states, the fight will not be over when it comes to employee rights. If you can’t be fired for using alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, whip its, sniffing markers, etc, there’s no reason you should be fired for marijuana if you are not impaired on the job. Hire employees for their skill sets and work ethic, not the purity of their urine. Just because someone smoked a joint off hours weeks ago doesn’t mean that they were impaired on the job today.