In the case of Brandon Coats vs. Dish Network, a quadriplegic with medical authorization to use medical marijuana, was fired by Dish Network in 2010 after he failed a company drug test. The ruling marks a victory for employers with a zero tolerance drug policy.
[COLORADO – June 29, 2015] – The Colorado Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that employees can be fired who use medical marijuana, even though medical marijuana use is legal in the state. The recent ruling upheld Dish Network's firing of Brandon Coats for smoking marijuana outside of work. The ruling is a victory for employers wanting to reinforce the principles of a drug-free workplace.
In the case Brandon Coats vs. Dish Network L.L.C., the former telephone customer service representative for Englewood, Colorado-based Dish Network argued that he was wrongfully terminated back in 2010 for using medical marijuana outside of his workplace. Coats is a quadriplegic. When he was 16 years old, he was a passenger in a vehicle that crashed into a tree. The accident left him paralyzed in over 80 percent of his body. As a result, he has suffered from severe involuntary muscle spasms and seizures ever since. Coats had a doctors medical authorization to use medical marijuana, claims to have never used the drug while at work, and presented that he was never under the influence of marijuana while at work. Though marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000 and Dish Network did not dispute “non-use claims”, Coats was fired by Dish Network after failing a company drug test. Colorado is one of 24 jurisdictions that have legalized medical marijuana. Colorado is also one of five jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Dish Network stands by their zero-tolerance drug policy, citing that medical marijuana is still illegal on the federal level. As such, Dish Network adamantly says the use of marijuana for any reason, including authorized medical use, is cause for termination. The issue at hand is the conflicting legality that is presented between the state and the federal law. Though marijuana is legal on the state level, it is not on the federal level, which causes confusion and conflict for many. There is a law in Colorado that protects employees from being terminated for lawful activities, however in the Supreme Court ruling, the court cites that the law refers only to activities which are legal under both state and federal law. "Therefore, employees who engage in an activity such as medical marijuana use that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law, are not protected by the statute," said the court's decision. The court further found that even though Colorado has legalized marijuana for recreational use that businesses may still bar marijuana use by their employees.
The court’s decision can have broader legal implications for other states as they move to legalize marijuana use for recreational and/or medical use, as it is still illegal on the federal level. The case has the ability to set a precedent for other states as the states lawful acts statutes are being trumped by the federal law. Thought this case is based as a Colorado decision, the court’s decision brings to light the discrepancy and issues involved with the lawful use of medical marijuana and employers rights. In essence, medical marijuana patients who legal use it for medical purposes actually do not have the right to use it. For those prescribed marijuana legally for medical purposed, the issues and clear discrepancies need to be presented and addressed by state legislature to provide protections to those with medical needs.Read more »
Things have gone south for the burgeoning Illinois medical marijuana industry. The previous state governor, Gov. Pat Quinn left office without authorizing business license applications from cultivators and dispensaries. Quinn has left these to his successor, Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Gov. Rauner’s stance on legal cannabis is already know. In his 2014 campaign for office, Rauner stated that he would have vetoed legalizing medical marijuana in Illinois if he been in office. Gov. Bruce Rauner’s criticism for marijuana, medicinal or recreational, has the industry worried what will happen to it under the new governor. If Gov. Rauner forges ahead in the direction his rhetoric points to, it could mean the end of the state’s four-year pilot program for medical cannabis.
This state of limbo Rauner has put the industry in is hurting business owners severely. All their business plans must be put on hold until the governor reaches a decision. Medical marijuana growers and dispensaries have already sunk anywhere from $100,00 to $1 million into applications and legal fees, as well as renting or building work spaces. Investors who helped fund these business are now backing out or growing impatient because of the wait. All this money and effort on the part of marijuana entrepreneurs competing for the state’s 60 dispensary and 21 cultivation license are now looking at pretty big losses.
State Representative Lou Lang, D, who was a major proponent of the bill legalizing medical marijuana, said there are roughly four paths Gov. Rauner could go down. The first is that the governor would do a slow evaluation of all the applications or hit the reset button on the whole program. In effect delaying the whole thing by weeks or months. The second possibility is that Gov. Rauner would do nothing. He’d simply refuse to sign anything, potentially holding up the program indefinitely. The third situation is that Rauner could throw out the Quinn administration’s system for evaluating licenses and develop his own. This too would put the cannabis industry on hold for a long time and could lead to lawsuits and long-term uncertainty. The fourth, and best, possible outcome is that Gov. Rauner does a review of the process and moves forward with giving out licenses.
People within the marijuana industry are starting to take action though, regardless of what the governor decides. Rep. Lang has introduced a bill that, if passed will help extend the life of the medical marijuana program. Some 35 to 40 business applicants and their lawyers met in Chicago to form the Cannabis Association of Illinois and push the issue forward with Rauner. The Rauner administration has given no clear idea of what decision they will make, but it appears that the fate of the Illinois medical cannabis industry is at the mercy of the new governor.Read more »
Even though 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, the legal pot industry faces a mountain of issues. The biggest one right now is that the industry is a cash-only business. All purchases and sales related to marijuana have to be made with cold, hard cash. The majority of this problem stems from the fact that the federal government still classifies marijuana as an illegal substance, so banks that took money from marijuana stores run a large risk of being shut down by the Department of Justice.
The Obama Administration attempted to curb this issue by giving the Treasury and Department of Justice new guidelines on how to deal with money from state-approved marijuana stores. These federal statements basically told both departments not to go after and seize such funds. Unfortunately for the pot industry, even this hasn’t encouraged banks to accept legal pot money because most banks are still wary of federal government intrusion.
Being locked in a cash-only medium hurts legal pot sellers on every level. Storeowners have to worry about theft and robbery, since their money is very vulnerable. Since all sales are made in cash, them and their employees have lots of it on hand, making them easy targets for robbers, posing a serious danger to the people of the industry. Large amounts of cash then need to be transported from the stores to banks. Only about 105 banks nationwide have agreed to take pot money. Marijuana sellers have been forced to hire armored truck or other armed services to take, literally, tens of thousands of dollars at a time to deposit them.
The House of Representatives passed two bills which would have helped end this cash problem. The first prohibited the DEA from interfering with state cannabis laws. The second bill stopped the Treasury from penalizing banks that took legal marijuana business money. However, since the bills are amendments on a larger, partisan bill, it is unlikely to survive the Senate.
In Colorado, a solution may be underway to solve this problem. The Colorado state government issued a charter to the Fourth Corner Credit Union to be the first financial institution to serve the legal marijuana industry. Fourth Corner is already operating with Colorado’s permission, but it needs a master account with the Federal Reserve and insurance from the National Credit Union Administration to be legitimate. Fourth Corner is waiting for approval from the federal government: the decision will decide whether Fourth Corner and similar credit unions may or may not be a thing in the future. The marijuana industry will, for the time being, have to stay a cash-only industry.Read more »
Over the past five years, marijuana legalization in both the medical and recreational fields have shifted public perception. Now legal in eighteen states plus the District of Columbia according to USA Today, there’s no doubt the cannabis market is growing astronomically across both the United States and Canada.
According to an ArcView Market Research report, the national cannabis market was estimated at $1.73 billion dollars in 2014. The same ArcView study estimates that the national market is on track to exceed $10.2 billion dollars by 2018, nearly doubling every two years. In the economic downturn the world has faced and especially in North American markets, the marijuana industry has become the California gold rush of the modern era.
In states like Arizona, the ArcView study indicated that the marijuana industry market was worth an estimated $142.19 million in 2014, up $35.37 million from 2013. Companies like “weGrow” out of Oakland, California have taken this tidal wave of marijuana entrepreneurship and again expanded the horizon. weGrow is becoming the first company to offer an initial IPO in the marijuana industry.
weGrow just recently opened a twenty one thousand square foot office space in Phoenix, Arizona. This company isn’t a gigantic dispensary; weGrow doesn’t actually sell marijuana at all. weGrow specializes in providing the “products and services to help safely and responsibly cultivate it.” weGrow assists through consultation on everything from licensing to dispensary and cultivation facility opening. Companies like weGrow highlight the diverse market of the marijuana entrepreneurship boom.
A recent Huffington post article states that Colorado‘s retail and wholesale marijuana sales total approximately $600 million annually. Colorado Governor Hickenloopers’s recent budget proposition estimated marijuana industry tax revenue to equate to $98 million, $40 million of which would be set aside for public school construction for 2014. The marijuana industry provides anywhere from 7,500-10,000 jobs in Colorado alone according to Marijuana Industry Group’s recent study.
Dispensaries in Colorado are also diversifying their selection, offering much more than just marijuana. In a recent CNBC Business article by Rob Reuteman, Rob was surprised at one dispensaries selection, where it was said:
“Marijuana is bought and sold in a dizzying list of edible forms, such as as caramel corn made with marijuana-laced butter, medicated chocolate covered cherries, rice sticky, rice-cake treats, frozen pizzas made with pot. Mile High Ice Cream in Denver makes dozens of flavors with marijuana.
There are bottled sodas, pills and tinctures.”
In states like Washington, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council projects the state will raise approximately $190 million over the next four years from the marijuana.Read more »