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Colorado Lawmakers Propose Bill Protecting Employees for Off-Duty Cannabis Use

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House Bill 20-1089 was introduced by Democratic Rep. Jevon Melton of Aurora. The bill is being pushed for passage of a law that would protect employees rights to use cannabis under state law. Similar legislation has been passed in other states, but this is the first for Colorado. A glaring gap in the state’s plan to rectify inequality caused by prohibition. 

Employee Fired for Cannabis Use

The law was necessitated by the Colorado Supreme Court decision that upheld the 2010 firing of Brandon Coats by his employer: Dish Network. 

Coats had been using legal cannabis to help control seizures and was fired by the company when he tested positive during a random drug screening. Dish Network attorneys had argued termination was allowable because cannabis is still illegal under federal statute. 

Expunging Cannabis Records

Melton’s bill was supported by House Democrat Rep. Jonathan Singer of Longmont. They argued that the law allowing employers to fire workers for legal cannabis use has disproportionately affected the poor and people of color.

Furthermore, both representatives believe the state should give a clean slate for people who use a drug that has been made legal by voters. Legislation to expunge the records of convicted cannabis offenses will also be a part of the dialogue. 

Open Comment on Bill

 A bill that will most likely take heat from business groups. The bill is open to be amended. There are fair points that employers will have to take under consideration the role being performed. 

Guardrails are set to assist employees who take part in recreational cannabis legally. However, much like prescription painkillers, there has to be a threshold for what workers can or cannot do. 

It is a good sign that Melton and his supporters want to consider opening a dialogue with the business community to help solidify the language of the bill. The bill has been referred to the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

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