In the state of Colorado, members of the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee voted unanimously against HB 20-1089, a bill that would have offered protections to employees from being fired from their jobs for marijuana use in their personal time.
“The concern about keeping a workplace safe and not having a reliable method for testing people’s impairment, the interest in maintaining a productive workplace, I think those are compelling,” said Rep. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster. The bill was voted on after three hours of testimony from each side of the argument.
“I do find some compelling arguments of people needing to use cannabis for medical reasons,” she continued. “The bill, I think, is much broader than that, than trying to narrow in on that conversation about how we make sure that people don’t lose their jobs for taking something they need to make it through the day.”
“The legislature missed an amazing opportunity to protect workers and employers alike by sticking with an outdated view of cannabis and by abandoning the constitutional protections that are guaranteed by the Colorado Constitution,” said Kimberlie Ryan, attorney with the Ryan Law Firm.
After the vote had concluded, Loren Furman, the Colorado Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president of state and federal relations, said, “If there’s going to be a bill that comes back or any kind of change in consideration of this policy, we need to have an exhaustive task force process again or an earlier stakeholder process than what we saw this legislative session.”
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora and was inspired by a court case in which Brandon Coats, a Dish Network employee and medical marijuana patient, was fired from his job after failing a drug test. Because Colorado Supreme Court justices ruled that the Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute’s definition of “lawful” meant complying with both state and federal law, the court ruled in favor of Dish Network.
“It was just a glaring gap that we have here in the statute, especially when we’re supposed to regulate marijuana like we are with alcohol,” Melton said after the case. “If someone’s able to drink while they’re at home and on their free time, as long as they’re not coming into work intoxicated, then they’re not penalized with their employment.”
“We may have to put some more guardrails and definitions,” said Melton. “I’m more than willing to listen to the business community and see how maybe we can tighten language up if necessary.”
The bill is now listed as Postponed Indefinitely on Colorado’s government website.