EDITORIAL: Congress must act on anti-reefer madness after Colorado high court ruling


The United States can either do this the easy way or the hard way when it comes to finishing the job to end the prohibition of marijuana.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that Dish Network had every right to fire an employee who failed a random drug test because he used medical marijuana, even though he was never high at work. But exercising such rights only shows how wrong the policy and the law are.

Under current state and federal law, the court ruling is right on the money. Colorado justices found that federal law outlaws the use of marijuana, and Colorado voter-initiated state constitutional amendments legalizing medical and recreational marijuana also state that businesses do not have to change drug policies to allow for employee use outside of work.

The unanimous ruling was similar to those in five other states permitting the medical use of marijuana.

There’s no question where this is going. It’s time for Congress to act now and resolve this and other pernicious issues affecting legalized marijuana in Colorado — and almost half of every other state in the country.

Currently, there are 23 states allowing for the use of medical marijuana, and more moving in that direction each year. While Colorado was the first state to permit the recreational use of marijuana, four more are there and many more are coming.

Marijuana prohibition failed to end or even really limit the consumption of pot, and now that federal ban itself is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and this case problematic.

What Colorado and other similar states have shown is that marijuana may have real health and social concerns —  as do alcohol, gambling and even obesity —  but prohibition is not the way to address those problems.

As the novelty of recreational, retail marijuana wanes here in Colorado, now more than a year after it began, it’s obvious the state hasn’t been sucked into a black hole of depravity. Sure, there are real challenges in integrating a once illegal and prohibited commodity back into society: banking, regulation, use by minors, even waste. The reality is that the marijuana changes in the state have boosted Colorado’s image as being a progressive, pragmatic state, drawing scores of new residents and businesses at an almost giddy rate. Four other states have or will join Colorado to end marijuana prohibition, and numerous more will follow.

So Congress can either stop federal prohibition, allowing states to decide the issue for themselves, or after just a few more states allow for medical or recreational marijuana, legislatures can force changes on Congress.

One of the two will and must happen.

In the mean time, companies such as Dish Network, which legally fired quadriplegic Brandon Coats from his telephone center job for failing the random pot screening, would benefit from changing their own policies to reflect Colorado’s vastly changed marijuana law and attitude. Every company should be able to insist against employees being intoxicated at work, but every company should treat marijuana the same way they treat alcoholic beverages.

Changes in federal marijuana laws won’t come fast, but that shouldn’t stop companies like Dish Network from proactively changing its policies to reflect the new reality: Quality employees may choose to use marijuana medically or recreationally, and businesses may never know that — unless they unwisely test for marijuana.

But standing idly by is nothing but this century’s refer madness.