Is it legal for you to light up? Truth is, even the government doesn't totally know.

Smoke weed at home? Even if it’s legal under your state’s marijuana policy, your employer can still fire you.

Everyone has a way to relieve stress after a long day of work, for some it’s a bubble bath, others it’s a cold beverage, and in certain states, such as Colorado, it may well be a joint.

Yet, those who decide to light up may cost themselves their job, depending upon the harshness of their employer’s drug policy. Under a Colorado Supreme Court ruling, even employees with a medical marijuana card can be fired because federal law classifies marijuana as illegal.

This trap is just the latest pitfall resulting from a policy with such a wide gap between state and federal regulations.

The gray, hazy area of marijuana regulations

Nearly half of the states in the United States have approved some form of legal marijuana. Because of federal laws however, there is still a substantial amount of gray area when it comes to things like if drug research, substance consumption and even how dispensaries are allowed to deposit money. All of these things involve the federal government in one way or another, whether it be through funding or regulation.

"Legalized marijuana has created a discrepancy where two governments have two definitions of what is legal."

Legalized marijuana has created a discrepancy where two governments have two definitions of what is legal. Some of this gray area was cleared up for employers, who have to directly comply with state and federal laws, in a Colorado Supreme Court, but things remain unclear for employees.

Well shit, everyone’s doing it

Despite the fact that employers can fire people for smoking while off the clock, marijuana and THC-infused products have become a booming industry. In Colorado, about one in seven people have used the drug and, with marijuana tax revenue expected to double from last year, this is clearly an industry growing exponentially.

In dispensaries all across Colorado, it’s common to enter the store and see not just your stereotypical stoner, but a variety of people from all age-groups, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds. The taboo nature of the drug is slowly being whittled away in towns where it is legal. But even as it’s becoming more accepted, it’s still illegal nationally. So, why is there a legal, thriving industry state-wide?

Hey Bro, Eric Holder said it was chill

Early on, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement claiming he and the U.S. government would not pursue any legal action against the states that legalized marijuana.

This decision made it okay for states to continue their individual experiments with drug regulation, while avoiding the much harder obstacle of legalizing the drug nationally at the same time. This has allowed a million-dollar industry to thrive and expand under a federal law that would normally never allow it.

Still, just because Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch says it’s chill, it doesn’t mean a new administration or a new Attorney General will think the same way. Because there was no proper legislation change, a new president could easily start enforcing the law again.

For employers, this possibility means that they have to be compliant with current federal laws to make sure that they won’t be subject to any penalties by a future administration.

Essentially, at the federal level, it’s not legal until it’s legal. Even though you won’t be arrested for smoking a state-legal joint on your couch, it doesn’t mean you won’t be fired because of a random drug test.


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Posted 01.24.2016 - 04:45 pm EDT