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Colorado Employers Torn on the Question of Marijuana Use

The legality of marijuana at the state level has put some employers at odds with their personal feelings toward partaking of the drug.

Take, for example, federal laws forbidding transportation workers such as pilots, commercial drivers, and train engineers from using marijuana. Regional Transportation District spokesman Scott Reed points to an ever-shrinking pool of drug-free drivers as one of the problems facing employers. According to Reed, after the legalization of weed, the Colorado transit system had a 5 to 10 percent rise in applicants who tested positive for marijuana and, as a result, were not hired.

Another business owner, Dottie Peterson, runs a staffing service. She doesn’t mind workers smoking on their own time. However, because her company receives better workers’ compensation insurance for being a drug-free workplace, she still drug tests her employees. Her company could face lawsuits if a drug-using worker gets into an accident, whether working on the road or at a job site. Others claim that cannabis consumption causes more health problems and absences for workers.

This dispute between federal and state law harkens back to the case of Brandon Coats, discussed in a previous blog post. Coats was fired from his job at DISH Network after failing a random drug test, despite his excellent work ethic and lack of evidence of impairment. The courts found that though Colorado law bans employers from discriminating against employees who engage in legal off-duty conduct, Coats still violated DISH Network’s drug-free workplace policies as well as federal marijuana laws.

For the time being, if you are employed in a safety-conscious job such as public transportation, it is wise to refrain from the use of marijuana.


The debate surrounding marijuana use among Colorado employers remains a complex and divisive issue. The evolving legal landscape has left employers grappling with navigating between state legalization and federal prohibition. As highlighted in this discussion, Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, and other legal entities play a crucial role in guiding employers to balance workplace policies and the changing societal attitudes toward marijuana. The varying perspectives and concerns among employers underscore the need for ongoing dialogue and clear regulatory frameworks to address the nuances of marijuana use in the context of employment. Moving forward, a collaborative effort between legal experts, businesses, and policymakers will be essential to establish fair and effective guidelines that respect individual rights and workplace requirements in the ever-shifting landscape of marijuana legislation.

Do you have further questions or concerns? Call us or contact the attorneys at Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, and we will be happy to help.

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