Marijuana

Medical marijuana cost Paul Curry his job at MillerCoors: Could it set legal precedent?

Paul Curry recently lost his job at MillerCoors in Golden for testing positive for pot -- even though he's a registered medical marijuana patient. Now, having retained big-shot pot attorney Rob Corry, Curry is fighting that decision in a move that could set state precedent over whether or not a company can fire somebody for medical marijuana. It's something several other states have already weighed in on -- but not yet in Colorado.

So far, the legal trend doesn't bode well for Curry. Last week, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado-based company TeleTech Customer Care was within its right to fire a Washington woman for using medical marijuana. While the woman, who sued using the pseudonym Jane Roe, had a Washington state medical marijuana prescription, the court decided the state's medical marijuana law did not necessitate employment protection for medical marijuana patients. Moreover, the court ruled the state's human rights commission couldn't even look into medical marijuana-related discrimination claims because of the federal prohibition on the drug.

Ouch. The decision follows a similar ruling in Michigan earlier this year. In February, a federal judge there ruled that Walmart had the right to can one of its worker for medical marijuana use, even though the employee was using it in his off hours to help deal with an inoperable brain tumor. The situation isn't much better even in California, despite its massive medical marijuana industry. In 2008, the state's supreme court ruled medical marijuana couldn't be used as a basis to sue employers for discrimination.

But Corry isn't overly troubled by these past decisions. "I'm a little bit worried, but they can be distinguished from one another," he says. "In these other cases, a claim wasn't brought under disability discrimination law." That's exactly what Corry is doing for his client -- filing a discrimination claim through the Colorado Civil Rights Division. And Curry and Corry already have one victory in their cap: Curry just won unemployment benefits from the state, which ruled he was terminated through no fault of his own.

That could be a saving grace as Curry and Corry move forward in what may become a legal referendum on whether or not you can get fired for using MMJ in Colorado. "If we have to use this case as a test case," Corry says, "I couldn't imagine a better target than MillerCoors, given the product they manufacture."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Dept. of Revenue's Matt Cook stepping down, targets MMJ consulting."

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner