Colorado high court to rule on whether employees can smoke pot when they're not at work

MarketsAssociated Press

Pot may be legal in Colorado, but you can still be fired for using it.

Now, the state's highest court is considering whether workers' off-duty use of medical marijuana is protected under state law.

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The case is being watched closely around the country and could have big implications for pot smokers in the first state to legalize recreational sales of the drug. Though the Colorado case involves medical marijuana, the court's decision could also affect how companies treat employees who use the drug recreationally.

Colorado's Supreme Court was scheduled to issue a ruling in the case of Brandon Coats, a medical marijuana patient fired by the Dish Network after failing a drug test in 2010. Coats didn't use marijuana at work and wasn't accused of being high on the job.

Coats said his pot smoking is allowed under a state law intended to protect employees from being fired for legal activities off the clock. But the company argues that because pot remains illegal at the federal level, medical marijuana isn't covered by the state law.

In arguments last year, Dish attorney Meghan Martinez argued that it doesn't matter whether Coats was ever high on the job.

"It's a zero-tolerance policy," she said.

State Supreme Courts in California, Montana and Washington state have all ruled against fired patients.

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Online:

Coats v Dish Network: http://bit.ly/1cQHOTxpdf