creators.com opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Deb Saunders
Debra J. Saunders
28 Sep 2014
Peterson or Sacramento Business as Usual

"Yeah, I have an 'R' next to my name," California secretary of state hopeful Pete Peterson shrugged when … Read More.

25 Sep 2014
Peace Protests, R.I.P.

Where are the peaceniks? Why aren't they marching on Capitol Hill to protest President Barack Obama's use of … Read More.

23 Sep 2014
If Only Gary Hart Had Manned Up

I don't think it's a coincidence that as the 2016 presidential campaign looms — and this time, Hillary … Read More.

Marijuana Smoke Gets in Your Rights

Comment

If you wanted to nudge the courts to establish a right to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal, you couldn't pick a more sympathetic plaintiff than Brandon Coats of Colorado. As a teenager, Coats was in an automobile accident that left him severely disabled. Now 34, Coats is a quadriplegic who has had a state medical marijuana card since 2009. He worked as a customer service representative for Dish Network from 2007 to 2010, when Dish fired him after he tested positive for marijuana use during a random drug test.

Coats sued Dish. On Tuesday, attorneys argued his case before the Colorado Supreme Court.

"We're not arguing that it's a constitutional right," Coats' attorney, Michael Evans, told the court, "but we are arguing that it's lawful (to use marijuana outside the workplace)." Dish maintains that it fired Coats in keeping with its zero-tolerance drug policy, which comports with federal law and even Colorado law, which provides only an "affirmative defense" for marijuana.

When I asked marijuana activist and entrepreneur Aaron Houston whether he thinks marijuana use is a right, he told me he wasn't sure how to answer, but he was sure there is a "a right to use the medicine your doctor recommends for you." But it's "perfectly reasonable" to restrict use "for safety-oriented jobs," Houston added. He just flew into Washington, D.C., and didn't want a pilot who was stoned.

Coats maintains that he never used marijuana on the job.

He worked in a Dish call center, not installing equipment on roofs. Colorado law prohibits employers from firing workers for engaging in legal off-duty conduct — which means that if Coats wins, recreational marijuana users would be likely to gain job protections.

Houston looks at the Dish policy as outmoded, unscientific (as traces of marijuana in the body do not signify impairment) and bad for business. He noted that in May, FBI Director James Comey told a conference that computer programmers with a taste for weed "should go ahead and apply" for jobs at the bureau, despite a ban on the hiring of those who have smoked marijuana in the past three years. The Wall Street Journal reports that Comey said, "I have to hire a great workforce to compete with those cyber-criminals, and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview."

I don't think Dish should have fired a call center guy for testing positive for marijuana, but I have to agree with the Cato Institute's Walter Olson, who told me that as a libertarian, he doesn't like corporate zero-tolerance policies, but he truly abhors "the endless proliferation of laws telling employers" what reasons they can use to pick their workers.

Consumers, on the other hand, are free to tell Dish what they think of the company's firing a quadriplegic for testing positive for medical marijuana. Maybe the company can take a hint from the FBI.

Email Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@sfchronicle.com. To find out more about Debra J. Saunders and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM



Comments

0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right:  
Creators.com comments policy
More
Debra J. Saunders
Oct. `14
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
28 29 30 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31 1
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Authorís Podcast
Ray Hanania
Ray HananiaUpdated 2 Oct 2014
Froma Harrop
Froma HarropUpdated 2 Oct 2014
Lawrence Kudlow
Lawrence KudlowUpdated 2 Oct 2014

22 Apr 2007 Will Afghanistan Be the Next Iraq?

17 Feb 2013 God Bless You, Sen. Feinstein

1 Jun 2010 Four Very Beautiful Ugly Americans