All Eyes On Upcoming Colorado Supreme Court Hearing - Coats v. Dish Network

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Proponents and opponents of the nationwide move to legalize marijuana, recreationally and/or medically, are keeping close eyes on the case of Coats v. Dish Network, slated to be argued before the Colorado Supreme Court tomorrow, Sept. 30. The case revolves around disabled customer-service representative Brandon Coats, 35, who -- after testing positive for marijuana -- told his boss on a Friday that he smoked it primarily at night to relieve spasms he suffered as a result of a car accident that paralyzed him when he was 16. When he showed up for work the following Monday, he said in a recent New York Times article, "my card wouldn't open up the door." In short, he had been fired for violating Dish's drug-free-workplace policy.

If Coats prevails in his argument that his positive drug test should be allowed under Colorado's 2000 law legalizing it for medicinal purposes (Colorado legalized its recreational use last year as well), employers throughout that state -- and even the country -- will have a harder time enforcing drug-free work policies, some legal experts say, including those representing Dish Network. Most, however, say that will never happen as long as marijuana remains an illegal substance under federal law.

Despite the growing ranks of states that now allow for medical marijuana use (specifically 23, plus the District of Columbia), and despite some states expressing interest in joining Colorado and Washington to allow for it recreationally (The Kiplinger Letter projects Alaska and Oregon will pass such laws this year, followed by Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Montana and Nevada by 2016), most employers are still following federal law.

"I know of no employer that has changed its policies because of these state laws," says Mark A. de Bernardo, executive director of the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace and a Reston, Va.-based senior partner at Jackson-Lewis. In terms of medical marijuana, he adds, "every single case that has been heard since we've had these laws on the books has been decided in favor of the employer" and its federally-backed drug-free policy and position.

Certainly, no federal contractor would — or should — even consider jumping on the marijuana-legalization bandwagon while the substance is illegal by federal standards, de Bernardo and others say. Obviously, the risk there could involve their federal funding. And all employers' drug-free-workplace policies remain backed by federal law, of course. "This is not a crisis for employers," says de Bernardo. "Their backs are not up against the wall. As I tell my clients, 'Do what Dish Network did; stay the course.' "

Where the Coats case and the growing national momentum could have an impact, employment attorneys say, is in the degree to which employers might be pressured to jump on the cannabis-legalization bandwagon — or at least run beside it at a good clip — to reassure the growing ranks of "using" people that they're keeping up with the times. Employees and job candidates are watching employers for their social and cultural values and leadership like never before, they say, so deciding to stand firm against the growing legalization tide could be something more employers are at least thinking twice about.

Indeed, it is very safe to say the popularity of marijuana is growing far faster than the plants themselves. In the two states where recreational use is now allowed by law, cannabis dispensaries are sprouting up everywhere. In King County, where Seattle is located, there are now 61 marijuana dispensaries, says Stan Wagner, chief executive officer of Cannabusiness Accelerator, based in Denver. In fact, this past Friday, Sept. 19, Cannabusiness Accelerator held a job fair in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, "with the support of the fast-growing marijuana industry's leaders to serve as a locus of networking and informational know-how for job seekers, as well as a showcase for program partners, "all suppliers to the new industry," according to the company's release about the event.

As for the types of employees slated to do well in the industry, "we want people who really take this seriously," says Wagner. For instance, a "budtender" — much like today's bartender — "truly needs to be the face of the company, advocating and helping people make educated decisions about which cannabis strains will affect them or help them in different ways."

"It's not just about selling pot," he says, "but about some higher thinking around the organization and its values." For the most part, and for now, those interested in becoming budtenders and/or pot consultants are primarily millennials (between the ages of 21 and 32), so Wagner's business is working with the new cannabis companies to help them establish policies and communications that will work best with that demographic.

"This industry is so new, you're developing a whole slew of new rules and regulations," he says, "like what they're accountable for, what their job descriptions are and what the values of this industry are." Not only is the burgeoning marijuana industry working against and weighing on some organizations, so is the growing use of cannabis among employees, whether their employers are trumpeting their zero-tolerance drug policies or not.

Madison, N.J.-based Quest Diagnostics' Drug Testing Index, released Sept. 11, shows that, for the first time in more than a decade, the percentage of positive drug tests among American workers increased. According to Quest's report, positive tests went to 3.7 percent in 2013 from 3.5 percent in 2012, based primarily on the rise in positive tests for marijuana and amphetamines. "More people are definitely using marijuana on the job and on breaks on the job," says de Bernardo. "That has its compromises, whether there's a law or not, in terms of absenteeism, motivation, innovation ... .

"Think about it," he says, "all the forces that make a business strong" are compromised by stoned employees, whether they're smoking on the premises or still under the influence when they enter their offices in the morning. An increasing number of drug-using high-school and college students -- especially in Washington and Colorado, according to latest reports -- who will soon be entering the workforce is a whole other very concerning story, he adds.

"What our country doesn't need are more stoned workers," says de Bernardo. It's for this very reason that he and other employment attorneys are advising their clients, emphatically, to hold fast to their zero-tolerance policies and, in fact, raise the volume button on the bullhorn while they're at it. "Employers have a tremendous, vested interest in making it clear to employees that marijuana is against the law" and against work policy, says Philip Voluck, managing partner of the Pennsylvania office at Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck, based in Blue Bell, Pa. "All 50 states could decriminalize marijuana, and it still does not change federal law."

Unfortunately, says Voluck, far too many employers are confused by the state statutes they're hearing about. "They must not be reading them," he says. "If they were, there wouldn't be any confusion. I field questions all the time in those states where it's legal [medically or recreationally]. Employers are asking, 'Does this mean I have to let my employees use marijuana at the workplace?' "

On the contrary, he tells them to " 'get out in front of all this' " by revising their employee handbooks to make them that much clearer that, " 'despite local law, it's still against federal law and we're going to enforce it.' " Marijuana use at work is also still disallowed under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which mandates safe and effective workplaces (marijuana has been proven to cause impairment), nor has the Americans with Disabilities Act been changed to allow for medical marijuana to date, says Voluck. "You have to make all this clear and you have to determine, for your business, what your definition of impairment is; how many hours the drug has been in the system" to fail your test, he says.



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Source: Hreonline.com
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Oh wow, Quest Diagnostics finds a 0.2% increase in the use of both marijuana and amphetamines. I am not even sure this is statistically significant, because it could be accounted for by the increase in employment or whatnot. It is so miniscule. It is also not all marijuana. So ridiculous.
 
I get the feeling that those numbers aren't telling the true story. Business/money-minded people read it as meaning that there are more "stoned workers". More likely those running the tests have figured out ways to score more positive results. While state Cannabis laws change, I'd wager that the behavior of workers has not.

That being said, it's unfortunate that Brandon was fired due to his admission. If he was showing up to work under the influence and creating problems, that's one thing. But assuming that he'd been a valued employee up until that point, they should be able to see that his Cannabis use was not affecting his ability to do his job.

Dish Network is a private company, and unfortunately they most likely reserve the right to do this. But I hope things change. I hope that more companies grow wiser and progress with the times to see that there is no innate evil within the plant. The only harm comes from laws, rules, and regulations that prohibit Cannabis use. A test result doesn't tell the truth... the only thing that matters, within this context, is how valuable someone's work is, regardless of their lifestyle away from their job.

:green_heart:
 
I completely agree with you OnlyOrganic, but the little lies the government and big business is willing to use to hold out for and stake it's argument on are ridiculous. I am of the belief that until marijuana is legalized, tobacco and alcohol should be banned as they cause far more harm and have no medicinal applications. That may sound extreme, but I believe those two vices are far more dangerous to society than the plant ever could be. The plant is a basis for forming a society with all its applications, independent of its medicinal properties.
 

c526

Member of the Month: Jan 2015 - Plant of the Month: Jan 2015
some one needs to swing the gavel,world wide.
In 100 years,we will be laughed at-,man can you believe they banned a plant back in the 19th-20th century,those silly cavemen.

I was reading something the other day,Canadians cant be fired for use,and in some cases have made"rooms" at the office where they can medicate,THE EMPLOYERS can be sued for termination.
It did not specify the jobs these people were doing.
 
...the little lies the government and big business is willing to use to hold out for and stake it's argument on are ridiculous. I am of the belief that until marijuana is legalized, tobacco and alcohol should be banned as they cause far more harm and have no medicinal applications. That may sound extreme, but I believe those two vices are far more dangerous to society than the plant ever could be. The plant is a basis for forming a society with all its applications, independent of its medicinal properties.
100% agreed. There is zero proof that Cannabis is harmful to society, and plenty to show that alcohol and tobacco are. It's all twisted and backwards, and I plan to see the day where Hemp is once again used to make virtually everything [and Cannabis is consumed freely].


some one needs to swing the gavel,world wide.
Precisely. Just like Anslinger did nearly a century ago, but swung the entire other direction. :)


In 100 years,we will be laughed at-,man can you believe they banned a plant back in the 19th-20th century,those silly cavemen.
I think about this all the time. It's embarrassing to find that perspective... yet at the same time I sleep well knowing that I'll be on the "right" side of history and did as much as I could at the time.


I was reading something the other day,Canadians cant be fired for use,and in some cases have made"rooms" at the office where they can medicate,THE EMPLOYERS can be sued for termination.
I've never heard of this, but that's how it should be! It's encouraging to hear that these situations exist anywhere in the world!

:green_heart:
 

c526

Member of the Month: Jan 2015 - Plant of the Month: Jan 2015
I've never heard of this, but that's how it should be! It's encouraging to hear that these situations exist anywhere in the world!
maybe/hopefully a Canadian med user can confirm,I was reading it on one of the "mean"sites that harsh my buzz,but was surprised at what I was reading.One person even had a room set up,with volcano's at their disposal.Company supplied. Another med user had his prescriptions from a LP that was coverd under his military benefits.
Of course Canada has never had pee test's,at least in the 25 years I lived there.