Glass jars containing various strains of marijuana sit on a counter as budtender Mattt Hart works at the 3D Dispensary on Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, in Denver. (David Zalubowski, The Associated Press)

Seattle Times: ‘Medical marijuana has value and shouldn’t get you fired’

The editorial board at Washington state’s largest newspaper says medical marijuana use should not be cause for an employee getting fired.

The Seattle Times editorial, published June 24, was in response to the recent Colorado Supreme Court decision saying that businesses can fire employees for the use of medical marijuana — a ruling that came down nearly 15 years after Coloradans voted to legalize medical marijuana.

From the Seattle Times editorial:

Nearly two-thirds of Americans now live in a state that allows medical marijuana in some form. Just this year, five Southern states, including Texas, allowed limited access to therapies based on cannabis. The revolt against the blanket federal marijuana prohibition has now spread to at least 29 states.

Yet using marijuana as medicine — and it clearly can be useful medicine — can get you fired in most of those states (and the District of Columbia), even if the use is off the clock.

The editorial references the Coats case regularly and demands that U.S. laws change: “The antiquated federal Controlled Substances Act’s bans on marijuana use pre-empts state laws. To accommodate legitimate medical-marijuana use for workers, federal law must change … The Obama administration and Congress must wake up to the brushfire revolt over marijuana. The simplest method would be to reclassify marijuana to recognize that it has medical value, which the Drug Enforcement Administration could do, but hasn’t.”

The editorial’s final line sums up the editorial board’s missive: “Medical marijuana has value and shouldn’t get you fired.”

In an editorial written for this site, NORML founder Keith Stroup echoed that sentiment.

What we really need is for employers in these legalized states to become responsible corporate citizens and to do the right thing: Stop penalizing employees, absent a showing of impairment on the job. But absent that voluntary shift in policy, the obligation is now on those of us who favor marijuana legalization to go back to the state legislatures in states that have legalized cannabis, either for medical use or for all adults, and enact appropriate job protections for those who use marijuana legally under state law.

In a June 2014 editorial written months before the State Supreme Court’s decision was announced, The Denver Post’s editorial board took the opposite side of the issue — siding ultimately with the three Colorado courts that heard Coats’ case.

It’s not that we’re indifferent to the plight of Brandon Coats, a medical marijuana patient fired by Dish Network after a positive drug test whose lawsuit is before the high court. Nor do we believe employers should be in the business, generally, of trying to regulate the off-duty behavior of their workers. Quite the contrary, in fact.

But employers clearly do have a reasonable basis for adopting zero-tolerance policies for some categories of workers, and a ruling that went Coats’ way would essentially torpedo that possibility.