Colorado Lawmakers to Protect the Rights of Employees Being Prosecuted for using Weed in their Personal Time

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Two lawmakers in Colorado are battling for the rights of employees who are being fired for using weed off the job.


If the bill introduced is passed, then the employers will be prohibited from taking action against them. Similar legislation was passed in California when the state legalized the use of cannabis for recreational purposes. However, Colorado is yet to take measures in this regard.

Relaxed laws for off-work entertainment activities in Colorado

D-Aurora and Jovan Melton introduced a bill recently which will prevent businesses from firing their employees for participating in legal activities in their free time. Though the bill may draw objections from the business world, Melton believes that it may correct some flaw that persists in the Colorado law.

He said that there persists a glaring gap in the law especially when it comes to regulating marijuana. He further asserted,

“If someone’s able to drink while they’re at home and in their free time, as long as they are not coming into work intoxicated, then they’re not penalized with their employment.”

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Clarity in Laws

The bill will clarify the definition of legal activities under the Colorado law. However, it would not be applicable to federal employees. The law is imposed by a court decision that upheld the firing of an employee of Dish Network, Brandon Coats in 2010.

Coats had been using marijuana for controlling his seizures. He was fired by the company after he was tested positive during a random drug screening conducted by his employer. Attorneys favoring Dish Network argued that the termination was allowable as marijuana usage is still considered to be illegal under the federal statute.

Business Community against the Bill

Business groups will likely oppose the new bill that has been created for protecting the right of workers. Melton stated that he is open to suggestions and modifications in the bill in order to secure the support of employers as well.

Melton clarified, “We may have to put some guardrails and definitions. I’m more than willing to listen to the business community and see how maybe we can tighten language up if necessary.” The bill submitted by Melton is being referred to the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. However, the schedule for a hearing has not yet been fixed.

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California modified its definition of lawful activity to refer to state law when it first legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. This is something that Colorado is yet to consider.

Republican Rep. High McKean who is also a member of the business committee of the House said that he is not yet aware of the particulars of the bill. However, he did mention that if the bill takes care of what an individual does in his or her free time, then he is fine with it. He still has concerns about unintended consequences.

He is eager to learn what would be the compensation provided to workers and what liability insurers think about this bill. He further added, “We know from sobriety testing that marijuana lasts longer in the system than alcohol”.

He also mentioned that there is no definitive understanding of the manner in which THC works within our body. He hinted that the bill is covering a tough question and it would require a lot of work. He said the fate of the bill would also be dependent on the views of the federal government about the drug.

Only time will tell what course would the Colorado government would be willing to take. As of now, we can expect a series of heated debates over the topic in the coming days.

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