On June 15, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court issued a decision interpreting Colorado’s Lawful Activities Statute, C.R.S. § 24-34-402.5 as not covering the use of medical marijuana pursuant to Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Amendment, Colo. Const. Art. XVIII, § 14. Specifically, the Colorado Supreme Court held because the use of marijuana for medical purposes remains illegal under federal law, the statutory term “lawful activity” did not encompass the medical use of marijuana despite its legality under Colorado law. The Colorado Supreme Court determined: “The term ‘lawful’ as it is used in section 24-34-402.5 is not restricted in any way, and we decline to engraft a state law limitation onto the term. Therefore, an activity such as medical marijuana use that is unlawful under federal law is not a ‘lawful’ activity under section 24-34-402.5.” See Brandon Coats v. Dish Network, LLC, 2015 CO 44 (Colo. June 15, 2015).

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision is important because Colorado’s Lawful Activities Statute provides that employees in Colorado cannot be terminated from their employment for engaging in lawful activities. As a result, had the Colorado Supreme Court ruled otherwise any employee using marijuana for medical purposes—and also likely for recreational purposes under Colorado’s subsequent constitutional amendment allowing the recreational sale, possession and use of marijuana—could not be terminated by their employers on that basis. Such a result would have dramatically impacted all employers in Colorado and would have called into question all drug free workplace policies and all policies allowing testing of employees for the use of marijuana.

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision is restricted to interpretation of the Lawful Activities Statute. The Court does not comment on the validity of Colorado’s marijuana laws.

Andrew D. Ringel, Esq., of Hall & Evans, LLC, filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Dish Network, LLC on behalf of the Colorado Defense Lawyers Association. If you have any questions about this decision please do not hesitate to contact Andrew.

Andrew D. Ringel

(303) 628-3453