By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) – A state bill has died that could have made it illegal to fire someone for using marijuana while off the job in Colorado. It is tied to a case that gained attention several years ago.

(credit: CBS)

Paralyzed from a car accident, Brandon Coats’ case went to the Colorado Supreme Court in 2014, but the justices turned him down. His employer, DISH Network fired him because of his off duty use of medical marijuana for his muscle spasms.

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At the time of leaving court he told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger, “I need marijuana in order to live my life. I have to have it. That shouldn’t mean that I should never be employed again in my life.”

Now years later, he brought his plea to the state capitol. He was asking that medical marijuana use off the job be allowed under Colorado law without fear of being fired.

(credit: CBS)

“If we had this in place, at the time, I wouldn’t gotten fired. It’s really hard for me to get a job now,” Coats told the House Business and Labor Committee from his wheelchair.

Though regulated in Colorado, marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

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Kelly Brough, the president of the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce was one of those
testifying against the bill.

“Employers have concern about this bill and their ability to insure that employees
aren’t impaired at work,” she told CBS4 outside the hearing room.

(credit: CBS)

Some see a double standard since it’s okay to drink alcohol off duty so long as you are not
impaired at work. Coats got a random drug test at DISH and was let go from his job as an operator.

“We really need to change the law to be productive in society instead of living off society.”

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But the bill overwhelmingly failed 11-0. No one voted to make it illegal for an employer to fire
someone for using legal marijuana while off the job.

Rick Sallinger