DISH's firing of paralyzed medical marijuana patient heading to state supreme court

brandon coats 205x205.jpg
Photos, documents below.
In 2012, Brandon Coats, a paralyzed medical marijuana patient fired by DISH for failing a drug test, filed a complaint over the issue in Arapahoe District Court. When he lost there, attorney Michael Evans brought the case to the Colorado Court of Appeals, where jurists also rejected Coats's argument. But Evans wasn't ready to give up. This past July, he submitted what he described to us as the final document in an effort to get the Colorado Supreme Court to take on the matter -- and at last, the jurists have agreed to take another look at this potentially groundbreaking case.

"It was such a great feeling," Evans says of the moment when he learned the Supreme Court had granted certiorari -- the technical term for accepting the case. "We've worked really hard on this case for four years.

"We don't make any presumptions about how they're going to rule," he adds, "but the fact that they took the case communicates to me that they're saying, 'This is an important issue, your client is important, and we need to resolve this issue for your client and employers as well.'"

As we've reported, Coats, who's in his thirties, is paralyzed over 80 percent of his body. At age sixteen, he was a passenger in a vehicle that crashed into a tree.

Since then, Coats has used a wheelchair to get around, but he's fully capable of working -- and in 2007, he was hired by DISH as a customer service representative. Over the years that followed, his original lawsuit contends that prescription medicine Coats took to treat involuntary muscle spasms began to fail. When searching for a way to deal with these symptoms, his physicians recommended that he supplement his regimen with medical marijuana. He received his state-issued license for MMJ in August 2009 and found that cannabis helped alleviate his spasms. However, the complaint stresses that he never used marijuana at his job during work hours or anywhere on the company's premises.

Thumbnail image for brandon coats.jpg
Brandon Coats.
In May 2010, Coats was ordered to take a random drug test. He's said to have told the employee administering the test that he was an MMJ patient, but this wasn't taken into account when he registered a positive for THC. The agent who broke the news allegedly told him that his status as a patient didn't matter: "That is just Colorado state law and does not apply to your job." Two weeks later, Coats was fired for violating the company's drug policy.

Evans took DISH to court, arguing that Coats's activities were constitutionally protected. But in February 2012, Araphaoe District Judge Elizabeth Beebe Volz granted DISH's motion to dismiss. Among the cases she cited to justify this ruling was one involving Jason Beinor, a medical marijuana patient sacked from his street sweeping job after failing a drug test.

In the wake of more judicial machinations, the Coats case reached the Colorado Court of Appeals. But in a 2-1 decision, the court sided with DISH. The majority decision, written by Judge Janice Davidson and on view below in its entirety, is summarized like so:

The primary question before us is whether federally prohibited but state-licensed medical marijuana use is "lawful activity" under section 24-34-402.5, C.R.S. 2012, Colorado's Lawful Activities Statute. If it is, employers in Colorado would be effectively prohibited from discharging an employee for off-the-job use of medical marijuana, regardless that such use was in violation of federal law. We conclude, on reasoning different from the trial court's analysis, that such use is not "lawful activity."
The bottom line: Because marijuana remains against federal law, employers can use that standard rather than state law as a rationale for banning worker use even off the job.

Quizzed after this ruling, Evans said, "This was a hard decision, because there are a lot of competing interests. So I think they did what was safe. And I also think there's one level above them.

"That's what happens a lot of the time. Trial judges and then Court of Appeals judges may side on the conservative side with an abundance of caution and let somebody else take the risk -- like the Colorado Supreme Court. If anyone is going to tell the federal government that state law is going to prevail in this case, it's going to be the Colorado Supreme Court."

Continue for more about MMJ patient Brandon Coats and the Colorado Supreme Court, including a photo and original documents.


My Voice Nation Help
27 comments
KathleenChippi
KathleenChippi topcommenter

jesus christ...."The bottom line: Because marijuana remains against federal law, employers can use that standard rather than state law as a rationale for banning worker use even off the job."

All the god damn money I spent suing the state 3 times, taking up space on this WW blog explaining it and STILL, three years later and everyone is MISINFORMED.

There is NO case law that says federal law trumps state medical (specifically) marijuana and the Single Convention Treaty of 1961 EXEMPTS medical marijuana specifically that is regulated by a state.  The SCT 1961 is where the DEA Schedule for recreational drugs comes from.


When will it sink in?


If the CO Supreme Court rules that patients do not have a RIGHT and merely a 'privilege' to use cannabis-- NOT ONE of the 250,000 plus patients in Colorado has a leg to stand on, registered or not.  

What sucks IS the vague A20 language.  This decision will have nothing to do with 'fairness' to Mr. Coats for getting a red card or having a doctors recommendation......

This ruling will either put an end to the constant attacks on patients and caregivers and grant a RIGHT for medical use (like Constitutions and the spirit of the law do) or 

It will be worse than Beinor and THE case law that ENDs medical marijuana here and nationally....setting things up for the marijuana mafia to take over profiting off of the  'privilege' and heavy taxation and of recreational cannabis....

I hate to say it but according to the A20 language and the attorneys arguments (and what wasn't argued) the lower courts were correct in their rulings against Mr. Coats.  Currently any employer can lawfully fire a person who fails a drug test. It's simple as that.


This is the argument I filed 3 lawsuits on trying to show a RIGHT. The courts refused to hear it coming from my attorney.  Now their hearing it from an attorney who is conceding federal preemption walking in?  God help us all.....

This article itself concedes to federal preemption.

Well let me say this:  if you concede that federal law trumps state law walking into this--then YOU LOSE, patients lose and you set case law for the nation that deconstructs medical cannabis. 


I'll be fund raising for an amicus brief that needs to be submitted immediately. 



DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Good thing that those fools who wrote Amendment 20 -- and Amendment 64 -- EXPLICITLY allowed Employers, Insurers, and the Government to discriminate against marijuana users in Colorado.


Good thing those fools who wrote A64 and A20 FAILED to establish any personal legal right to use marijuana.


Were they STUPID? ... or did they do it on purpose?






Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

Gee, I'm a patient myself, and as far as I'm concerned, no government should be obstructing my access to my medicine.

That said, I don't think the state has any right to interfere with an employment contract, either, and believe me, that would affect my life. It's bad enough the Drug Free Workplace Act already coerces businesses in the wrong direction. That's where I think action needs to take place.

Ski Steve
Ski Steve

I hope somebody gave him a job when they read about this the first time around. Gl.

PleaseDontSpeak
PleaseDontSpeak

so......should they be allowed to fire him for using nicotine s well? why stop at marijuana? marijuana is legal just like nicotine is......a positive test does not mean you are using on the job.

bobbyjoegeeser
bobbyjoegeeser

too bad they can fire him for what ever they want. he is not an independent contractor and violated the company's drug policy.  They are firing him because he failed a drug test, not because he is disabled. They would not test for thc if they wanted people who use marijuana. 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@KathleenChippi  "What sucks IS the vague A20 language.  This decision will have nothing to do with 'fairness' to Mr. Coats for getting a red card or having a doctors recommendation......This ruling will either put an end to the constant attacks on patients and caregivers and grant a RIGHT for medical use (like Constitutions and the spirit of the law do) or "


And guess which Greedy Big $$ Lobby will be arguing AGAINST Patient/Caregiver rights?


Rights that would infringe on their attempt to monopolize and control the entire market, with the help of their bribed goons at the insatiable Dept. of Revenue.


They've already begun their media scampaign via the Denver Post floating a story that characterizes the few "rights/privileges" granted by A20 to private patient growers/caregivers as LOOPHOLES that need to be legislatively CLOSED. The Colorado Constitution and it's amendments are now loopholes that must be eliminated in favor of the Greedy Big $$ Dispensary Cartels.


Who knew that the bests interests -- legal, medical, privacy, financial -- of Commercialized Cannabis would be in direct conflict with the best interests  of the INDIVIDUAL Patients / Caregivers?


What clueless ignorant know-nothing dilettante poseur cunts -- [cough] Robert Chase -- ran around proclaiming that "everyone should stick together" and support the power and $$ grab of the Dispensary Cartels by supporting that putrid turd A64?







KathleenChippi
KathleenChippi topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay it was on purpose....we told them--they said A20 was "symbolic' and would never be implimented....

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Cognitive_Dissident  "I'm a patient myself, and as far as I'm concerned, no government should be obstructing my access to my medicine."


And if your medicine of choice is Heroin, Cocaine or LSD ?


Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

By the way, just because I respect the employer's right, doesn't mean I like it. I think they're idiots for not using objective standards based on performance. I also suspect they're complying with the Drug Free Workplace Act so they can sell satellite service to government.

WillieStortz
WillieStortz topcommenter

@PleaseDontSpeakIf there employment agreement state that they employee is not allowed to use nicotine then absolutely they should able to fire a person for using nicotine. 


These rules are already in place at some companies in order to reduce insurance costs for everyone.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

@PleaseDontSpeak Did you read it?  It is illegal on the Federal level.  Nicotine is not an illegal substance at the State or Federal level. 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@bobbyjoegeeser ... yep, Colorado is an "at will" employment State, which means that Employers can fire employees for any reason* or no reason, whenever they desire.


*excepting the specifically protected classes of Race, Religion, National Origin, Sex, etc.



Teehee
Teehee

@DonkeyHotay Your medicine is cock. You take it orally, rectally, and I've also heard you boil the ejaculate and use it intravenously. The government needs to regulate your cock intake before you choke, get an impacted bowel, or your arteries get clogged with semen. It's for your protection. And I don't care if your doctor gives you cock or not, it's not his decision.

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @Cognitive_Dissident 

If my medicine was heroin, cocaine or LSD, it would be for a reason, and the state still would have no business depriving me of it. Since this has nothing to do with those substances, however, it doesn't matter.

In any case, personal possession or use of any of them is not and never was the federal government's business.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @Cognitive_Dissident @DonkeyHotay @Cognitive_Dissident  Oh poor Donkey, let me explain the difference between heroin, cocaine, LSD and pot. 


Three of them are illegal both federally and at the state level.


One is legal for recreation and medicinal purposes at the state level and is illegal at the federal level.


Cognitive is agreeing with the employers right to uphold an employment contract.


Soon weed will be legal for all for any purpose. Get over it. More of us vote for freedom than those who vote like you. 


I don't even smoke weed and I see the tide changing and the lunacy in keeping it illegal.  Weed was made illegal because migrant workers were the primary users and the alcohol companies didn't like it competing with their product.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_history_of_cannabis_in_the_United_States

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @Cognitive_Dissident  Oh poor Donkey, let me explain the difference between heroin, cocaine, LSD and pot. 


Three of them are illegal both federally and at the state level.


One is legal for recreation and medicinal purposes at the state level and is illegal at the federal level.


Cognitive is agreeing with the employers right to uphold an employment contract.


Soon weed will be legal for all for any purpose. Get over it. More of us vote for freedom than those who vote like you. 


I don't even smoke weed and I see the tide changing and the lunacy in keeping it illegal.  Weed was made illegal because migrant workers were the primary users and the alcohol companies didn't like it competing with their product.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_history_of_cannabis_in_the_United_States

PleaseDontSpeak
PleaseDontSpeak

@WillieStortz @PleaseDontSpeak cool...then an employer should be able to fire an employee if they become fat, get a tattoo, wear an opposing teams jersey to work, or votes for the wrong political party...fair is fair, right?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Cognitive_Dissident  ... only the most deluded, deranged and daft "libertarian" would assert that a Strict Government Controlled seed-to sale Over-Regulated and Massively Taxed market as exemplified by A64 and implemented in Colorado is anything near "free".


Are you drunk again?

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @whateveryousay 

You refer to "commercialization" as though it's a bad thing. It's really just a left-wing besmirching of free enterprise. As long as they don't have the state to punish the competition for them, I don't have a problem with quid pro quo, and you're unAmerican if you do.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@whateveryousay "Soon weed will be legal for all for any purpose."


Not in your lifetime.


Especially since the Stupid Stoners themselves are willing to write and pass FAKE legalization amendments that are actually Government Controlled COMMERCIALIZATION of Cannabis measures that CONTINUE the CRIMINAL PROHIBITION of Cannabis, failing to repeal a single FELONY statute against marijuana, failing to repeal a single MISDEMEANOR criminal statute against marijuana, EXPLICITLY continuing the CRIMINALIZATION of marijuana for ALL ADULTS under 21.



DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@PleaseDontSpeak ... Colorado is an "at will" employment state. 


Get back to us when you comprehend what that means.

Now Trending

Denver Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...