Colorado medical marijuana patient wins unemployment benefits

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 10:47 EDT
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A Colorado man who was fired from his job after testing positive for medical marijuana properly obtained under state law has won an appeal that grants him full unemployment benefits, in spite of his former employer’s objections.

Lauro Sosa’s claim for unemployment benefits was filed against the Swift Beef Company, after they forced him to undergo a drug test. Sosa’s employer allegedly noticed him acting as if he were intoxicated and when confronted, the employee admitted that his test would be positive due to recent consumption of medical marijuana.

But when tests came back showing as much and Sosa was fired, an unemployment officer decided to honor his claim and ruled the termination was no fault of his own.

When Swift lawyers appealed, the state’s Industrial Claim Appeals Office agreed with the employer and struck down Sosa’s benefits, which were reinstated again this week by a Colorado court of appeals.

In ruling on Sosa v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office, the court found that Swift failed to present evidence “that the laboratory performing claimant’s drug test was licensed or certified” as required by law, so it set the earlier decision aside.

“Although the outcome is disappointing for employers, the decision implies (while not saying so explicitly) that such benefits will be denied in similar situations if employers present some readily available evidence in the trials of such claims,” Swift’s attorneys said in a media advisory.

Colorado’s medical marijuana laws do not preclude employers from firing properly registered patients. Swift said it has a zero-tolerance policy on drug abuse.

(H/T: Toke of the Town)

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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