Jun 152015

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday affirmed lower courts’ rulings that businesses can fire employees for the use of medical marijuana — even if it’s off-duty. The 6-0 decision comes nine months after the state’s highest court heard oral arguments in Brandon Coats’ case against Dish Network. Coats, who had a medical marijuana card and consumed pot off-duty to control muscle spasms, was fired in 2010 after failing a random drug test. Coats challenged Dish’s zero-tolerance drug policy, claiming that his use was legal under state law. The firing was upheld in both trial court and the Colorado Court of Appeals. The question at hand is whether the use of medical marijuana — which is in compliance with Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Amendment — is “lawful” under the state’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute. That term, the justices said, refers to activities lawful under both state and federal law.

When voters in 2012 legalized recreational marijuana under Initiative 502, they also gave specific directions for where taxes from the product would be spent. Among other things, marijuana revenue was to be used to fund substance-abuse programs, health care and research. As that money starts to roll in, budget writers may use at least some of it — originally destined for nonprofit community health centers — for other purposes. That money was designated to help fund care for underserved populations, like minorities and immigrants. It is intended to provide for health-care costs that other government spending, like Medicaid, doesn’t cover. But lawmakers this year are struggling to write a budget that complies with court orders to fix education, mental health and other social-service programs, as well as provide cost-of-living raises for teachers and state employees.

Marijuana companies in California and Colorado have tabbed prominent American Indian leaders from the Dakotas to help prod tribes across the nation into the pot business. Tex Hall, the former chairman of the oil-rich Three Affiliated Tribes, and Robert Shepherd, former chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribe in northeastern South Dakota and southeastern North Dakota, are trying to recruit and assist tribes in producing high-grade marijuana products. With 566 federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States, the potential revenue for marijuana businesses is big, even though many native leaders remain skeptical. The prospect of pot on tribal land is made possible by a U.S. Justice Department decision in December that allows Indian tribes, which are considered sovereign nations, to grow and sell marijuana on their lands as long as they follow the same federal conditions laid out for states that have legalized the drug.

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe executive committee voted 5-1 Thursday to legalize the growing and use of marijuana on tribal land. The marijuana control ordinance will establish a facility where marijuana will be grown. Another location will offer marijuana for recreational use. The ordinance approves marijuana consumption only inside of a single facility that has yet to be determined. Officials describe the proposed facility to function similarly to a bar. Despite the ordinance’s passage, Attorney General Marty Jackley said it is still illegal for non-natives to be under the influence of marijuana. Santee Sioux officials said that tribal membership is not required to purchase and use marijuana.

Alex White Plume thought his decade-long wait to produce industrial hemp on a South Dakota Indian reservation was ending when the federal government softened its stance on marijuana enforcement and lawmakers expanded the development of hemp under certain circumstances. But federal prosecutors in South Dakota refuse to lift an injunction against White Plume that prevents the enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Nation from growing the crop. The White Plume family, including Alex and his brother, Percy, planted hemp for three years from 2000 through 2002, but they never harvested a crop. Federal agents conducted raids and cut down the plants each year. The injunction was ordered in December 2004.

Susan Olsen, who played pigtailed Cindy Brady on “The Brady Bunch,” told Australian news that she and her former husband used to grow marijuana hydroponically. But Olsen was never a passionate pot purveyor. “I have never really enjoyed smoking it; it makes me very paranoid,” she admitted. “But it was my husband’s idea. That was one of the reasons why I did leave my husband, because it just bothered me too much that we were doing something so illegal.”