VIDEO: Coors fires man for using medical marijuana

Coors Brewing, Golden, Colorado (Image: Jami Dwyer/Encyclopedia Britannica online)

Paul Curry is out of work. His unemployment claim hasn’t yet been ruled on. At least he still has his medical marijuana–of course that’s why MillerCoors fired him.

According to his attorney, Rob Corry, he uses medical marijuana because of two separate conditions. He has nausea as a result of hepatitis C and he has severe back pain because of an injury he suffered while at work–at MillerCoors.

Corry said that when Curry was involved in a minor non-injury accident at work a few months ago, he was tested for marijuana and the test came up positive.

Corry says his client will probably sue MillerCoors for discrimination. The constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana in Colorado states that employers do not have to make any accommodations to the use of medical marijuana while at work but is silent on the subject of use outside of work, according to Corry.

Corry says, however, that it is illegal to discriminate against an employee because of a disability. “This is a clear case of discrimination on the basis of a disability,” he says.

He says Curry had a good employment record with the company, where he had worked for seven years.

Curry recently spoke with 9News:

Paul Curry says his seven years at MillerCoors came to an abrupt end with one simple conversation.

“They just told me to pack my bags. They brought in security, I emptied out my locker and they told me to go home,” he said.

While MillerCoors cannot comment on the decision to let Curry go, Curry says he was told he was being fired because he had just tested positive for marijuana. Not a surprise, says Curry.

“I’ve been on the [medical marijuana registry] for about a year,” he said.

The MillerCoors media relations office did not quickly return a call, but Curtis Graves, staff attorney at the Mountain States Employers Council, says that while he is unaware of any court cases in Colorado related to employees being fired for medical marijuana use, courts in other states have sided with employers.

“Courts have said that if you test positive for marijuana, employers can treat that as if you were impaired at work.”

He says the clause that Corry referred to about employers not having to accommodate medical marijuana use at work can be interpreted to mean that employers do not have to accommodate any use of medical marijuana.

“If someone tests positive, the employer can assume they are impaired and discipline that person according to the company’s policy.”

Graves said, however, that as testing methodologies improve, the balance may shift to favor employees. “When a test is developed that measures actual current impairment, then employees will be able to say ‘use that test’ instead of one that simply measures THC levels, but we aren’t there yet.”

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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