Colorado Employers Can Fire Employees For Smoking Pot

Colorado Employers Can Fire Employees For Smoking Pot
Image credit: Wendy McCormick

It’s a bit complicated. According to federal law, marijuana (better known as ‘pot’) is a ‘controlled substance’ and technically, smoking it is illegal. On the other hand, effective January 1, Colorado made it legal for a person of 21 years of age or older to purchase the weed, up to prescribed maximum quantities, for recreational use.

Employers can fire employees for smoking weed

Yet, an employer in Colorado would be well within his rights to implement a strict ‘no-drugs’ policy within the organization – and equally, to dismiss an employee found smoking pot. It doesn’t matter if the offense was committed off-duty. In fact, even an employee using marijuana for medical purposes, supported by a doctor’s prescription, could nonetheless fall afoul of the employer’s rules and lose his or her job.

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This is because employers that have a drug policy can choose to cite federal law for taking the action against the worker. According to Curtis Graves, attorney for a non-profit that represents 3,000 Colorado companies, this is because smoking pot continues to be illegal under federal law.

This is despite the Justice Department’s August 2013 announcement that – as long as states implemented “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems” regarding their proposed marijuana legalization – it would not challenge the new state laws.

Landlords versus renters

A similar issue has cropped up between landlords and apartment renters. Can a tenant legally smoke pot in his rented apartment? According to attorney Vic Sulzer, a lot depends upon what’s written up in the rental agreement – but apparently landlords have the power to decide whether to permit smoking of pot on the premises.

“It’s legal to bring your motorcycle into your living room to change the oil, but that doesn’t mean a landlord has to allow a tenant to do the same thing,” says Sulzer.

Smoking rooms or not, no pot, say Colorado hotels

In another example of these apparent contradictions at play, Colorado hotels are not permitting out-of-state guests to use rooms for smoking pot. In many ways this is an extension of their non-smoking policy. However, even hotels that offer smoking rooms draw the line at pot.

‘Pot’ tourism

But trust Spirit Airlines to capitalize on the marijuana-fueled rush of tourism to Colorado with some tongue-in-cheek advertising.

“The no smoking sign is off,” reads an ad on the airline’s website. “Get Mile High with $10 off your next flight. Fares so low they’re barely legal in some states.”

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