Colorado court rules against medical marijuana user
Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 5:13 am
The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled against a man who was fired when he tested positive for marijuana. The man, who had a valid medical marijuana card and a doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana to treat headaches, had filed for unemployment, which has now been denied.
Robert Corry, who represents Paul Curry in a case against Coors, said that this case will have little effect on the Curry-Coors litigation.
He said the Curry case is based on a disability claim whereas the plaintiff in this case was making a claim that he had the constitutional right to use marijuana.
He said this case, Beinor v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office, may foreclose similar cases, though he said Beinor didn’t have an attorney, which may also have affected his case.
A recent decision from the Colorado Court of Appeals has decided that a medical marijuana user who is fired for a positive drug test result is not eligible for unemployment compensation benefits. In Beinor v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office, ___ P.3d ___, 2011 WL 3612226 (Colo. App. Aug. 18, 2001), the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the Order of the ICAO denying unemployment compensation benefits to a discharged employee who had tested positive for marijuana. The employee presented evidence that, in accord with his doctor’s recommendation, he used “medical marijuana” for severe headaches.
In approving the ICAO’s Order, the Court of Appeals focused on the fact that medical marijuana is not “prescribed” by a physician; rather, a physician may “recommend” its use under certain circumstances. Accordingly, the marijuana ingested by the claimant was “not medically prescribed” within the meaning of C.R.S. § 8-73-108(5)(e)(ix.5), and denial of benefits under that section was appropriate. The Court then held that this denial of benefits based on the use of medical marijuana did not violate the Colorado Constitution, specifically, Article 18, § 14, the constitutional amendment dealing with medical marijuana. In doing so, the Court observed that this constitutional amendment created limited exceptions to Colorado’s criminal laws, and that the denial of benefits in this non-criminal setting did not violate the amendment.