Pubdate: Mon, 06 Oct 2014
Source: Herald, The (Everett, WA)
Copyright: 2014 The Daily Herald Co.
Author: Debra J. Saunders
Page: A9


If you wanted to nudge the courts to establish a right to use medical 
marijuana in states where it is legal, you couldn't pick a more 
sympathetic plaintiff than Brandon Coats of Colorado. As a teenager, 
Coats was in an automobile accident that left him severely disabled. 
Now 34, Coats is a quadriplegic who has had a state medical marijuana 
card since 2009. He worked as a customer service representative for 
Dish Network from 2007 to 2010, when Dish fired him after he tested 
positive for marijuana use during a random drug test.

Coats sued Dish. On Tuesday, attorneys argued his case before the 
Colorado state Supreme Court.

"We're not arguing that it's a constitutional right," Coats' 
attorney, Michael Evans, told the court, "but we are arguing that 
it's lawful (to use marijuana outside the workplace)." Dish maintains 
that it fired Coats in keeping with its zero-tolerance drug policy, 
which comports with federal law and even Colorado law, which provides 
only an "affirmative defense" for marijuana.

When I asked marijuana activist and entrepreneur Aaron Houston 
whether he thinks marijuana use is a right, he told me he wasn't sure 
how to answer, but he was sure there is a "a right to use the 
medicine your doctor recommends for you." But it's "perfectly 
reasonable" to restrict use "for safety-oriented jobs," Houston 
added. He just flew into Washington, D.C., and didn't want a pilot 
who was stoned.

Coats maintains that he never used marijuana on the job. He worked in 
a Dish call center, not installing equipment on roofs. Colorado law 
prohibits employers from firing workers for engaging in legal 
off-duty conduct, which means that if Coats wins, recreational 
marijuana users would be likely to gain job protections.

Houston looks at the Dish policy as outmoded, unscientific (as traces 
of marijuana in the body do not signify impairment) and bad for 
business. He noted that in May, FBI Director James Comey told a 
conference that computer programmers with a taste for weed "should go 
ahead and apply" for jobs at the bureau, despite a ban on the hiring 
of those who have smoked marijuana in the past three years.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Comey said, "I have to hire a 
great workforce to compete with those cyber-criminals, and some of 
those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview."

I don't think Dish should have fired a call center guy for testing 
positive for marijuana, but I have to agree with the Cato Institute's 
Walter Olson, who told me that as a libertarian, he doesn't like 
corporate zero-tolerance policies, but he truly abhors "the endless 
proliferation of laws telling employers" what reasons they can use to 
pick their workers.

Consumers, on the other hand, are free to tell Dish what they think 
of the company's firing a quadriplegic for testing positive for 
medical marijuana. Maybe the company can take a hint from the FBI.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom