Colorado coalition working to update workplace pot policies

BOULDER — Pot is legal in Colorado but you can still be fired from your job for smoking pot at home, a problem pro-cannabis groups are working to address.

“I get calls almost everyday by people who were fired for off-the-job use of legal marijuana or medical marijuana,” said Rachel Gillette, executive director of Colorado NORML and co-chair of the Coalition for Drug Testing Policy Reform. She talked about a recent call from a woman who had cancer and was fired from her customer service job for using medical marijuana at home.

“Employers don’t exactly know how to deal with the issue of employees using legal marijuana off the job. Their best employee could be a lawful cannabis consumer.”

The coalition for drug testing reform held its first meeting last week just as the state Supreme Court announced it would review the case of a medical marijuana patient who was fired from Dish Network in 2010. Brandon Coats, who is quadriplegic, was fired because Dish Network did not consider marijuana use a “lawful” outside-work activity.

Urine tests don’t accurately tell employers about when an employee is impaired, but rather indicate marijuana has been used sometime in the 30 days before the test. In most jobs, policies based on the tests don’t make sense, Gillette argues.

The 20 person coalition aims to ask lawmakers to take up the issue of workplace pot policies. It’s also pushing for more local laws similar to the drug testing clause in Boulder’s city charter. Boulder has well-defined rules and strict requirements for the conditions in which employers are allowed to require a drug-test. Judd Golden, at Boulder’s ACLU chapter, drafted the law and is a member of the new coalition.

The coalition has another four meetings stacked up in the coming months.

“This just sort of illustrates how, even though we’ve legalized marijuana in Colorado for recreational use, there are a number of other issues on the periphery we have to deal with moving forward if we want to make it work for everybody,” Gillette said.

[ Image via Phil Gold. ]