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The Top 5 Things to Know About Drug Testing in: Colorado

Posted on Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

The Top 5 Things to Know About Drug Testing in: Colorado

By Current Consulting Group (CCG)

This information is provided for educational purposes only. Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein.

Along with its breathtaking mountain views and famous skiing, residents and tourists alike associate Colorado with its many marijuana distilleries and widespread cannabis use. Colorado is famous for leading the country in its legalization of both medicinal and recreational marijuana. As a result, drug testing laws for any drug, not just marijuana, in the state can be complicated for businesses trying to keep their employees safe and their facilities compliant.

Below are the five important things you need to know when considering drug testing in Colorado.

Drug Testing Law Type: None. Colorado does not have a general drug testing law. A notable exception is in the city of Boulder, where several restrictions exist.
Random Testing: Random and scheduled testing are permitted in the state and can result in employee termination under federal laws restricting marijuana use. However, it has become increasingly less common for employers, especially private companies experiencing labor shortages, to test and terminate employees based on this alone.¹
Workers’/Unemployment Compensation Denial: Colorado has workers’ and unemployment compensation laws that contain their own drug testing requirements. Employers are not required to comply unless they wish to attempt to deny workers’ or unemployment compensation claims. If an employee tests positive for THC after a workplace accident or injury, those individuals will not be eligible for the entirety of their unemployment benefits if they are subsequently fired. When testing for workers’ or unemployment comp, drug or alcohol testing must be conducted by a medical facility or laboratory licensed or certified to conduct such tests.²
Marijuana Laws: Marijuana is legal both for medicinal and recreational purposes in Colorado. However, the case of Coats vs Dish Network highlighted a crucial point in the debate over state vs federal laws on marijuana. When Brandon Coats was fired from his job at Dish Network after testing positive for THC during a random drug test, he sued the company stating his use of marijuana was “lawful” under Colorado law. While this was true, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against him because his use was unlawful according to federal law, which ultimately trumps state law. As a result of this ruling, workers are not able to claim wrongful termination, nor can they collect full unemployment benefits if they test positive for marijuana either in a post-accident test or in a scheduled or random test.³
How to Test: In order to test properly and obtain specimens that will hold up in a court proceeding, choose a laboratory that is SAMHSA certified and has reliable test reporting programs in place.

The Current Consulting Group provides extensive information about laws in each state that affect workplace drug and alcohol testing at CurrentCompliance.org. Learn how to subscribe here.


¹ Colorado Legal Defense Group, Colorado Drug Testing Laws – What Workers Need to Know, February 5, 2022, Accessed November 4, 2022. https://www.shouselaw.com/co/blog/labor/colorado-drug-testing-laws-3-key-things-to-know/

² Colorado Revised Stat. 8-73-108(5)(e)(IX.5), Colorado Revised Stat. 8-42-112.5(2)

³ No. 13SC394,Coats v. Dish Network—Labor and Employment-Protected Activities https://law.justia.com/cases/colorado/supreme-court/2015/13sc394.html

© 2010-2022 The Current Consulting Group, LLC – No portion of this article may be reproduced, retransmitted, posted on a website, or used in any manner without the written consent of the Current Consulting Group, LLC. When permission is granted to reproduce this article in any way, full attribution to the author and copyright holder is required.

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