Don’t Let Your Career Blow Up in Smoke


Don’t Let Your Career Blow Up in Smoke:
7 Things to know about employment and drug use in Colorado

In 2012, Colorado adopted an amendment to its Constitution (Amendment 64) which legalized the recreational possession and use of marijuana for individuals twenty-one and older. Since that time we’ve been having conversations about marijuana use with employers who recruit and hire DU students and alumni.

Through these conversations it’s become clear that students need more information about marijuana, the law, internships and employment within Colorado. Following is a list of questions and answers meant to educate individuals already employed or those just entering the work force about what is and isn’t legal about marijuana in our state.

  1. How does Amendment 64 work?
    Are you 21? You can use it and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana.
  2. Are there limitations to marijuana use?
    Yes! Federal law does not provide exceptions for medicinal or recreational use even in Colorado. Employers can choose to abide by federal law and prohibit its use. Employers with federal contracts or federal funding are known to abide by the federal laws and have strict pre-employment drug screening. Some of these employers require hair sample drug testing which can identify an individual’s drug use months prior.
  3. Does Amendment 64 allow me to get high at work?
    Employers do not need to permit the use of marijuana in the workplace. It also does not restrict employers from having policies against employee drug use.
  4. Why do employers care if I use it?
    Employers worry about workplace safety, absenteeism and productivity, plus, “employers have the right to have a drug-free workplace policy and enforce it” (Laura Shelton, Executive Director, Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association, “Court Rules Medical Marijuana Users Can Be Fired”).
  5. Can my employer randomly drug test me?
    Yes! “In general, standard urine tests can detect traces (metabolites) of THC several days after use. In heavy users, THC metabolites can sometimes be detected for weeks after use stops” (National Institute of Health). Some may test hair samples (to detect longer term use, up to 90 days) and oral fluids (to detect recent use).
  6. Can I be fired if I only use it outside of work?
    YES! Drug tests cannot tell when marijuana was used. Colorado law does not protect employees for either recreational or medicinal use. A 2014 survey conducted by Mountain States Employers Council (MSEC) found that 77% of companies surveyed “currently test employees for drugs either pre-employment or at any other time during the employment”, including randomly.
  7. How will I know if my employer is cool with it or not?
    Review your employer’s employee manual and know their policies before you submit and application. Here are some questions that you should be able to answer: What are the policies in regards to drug use? Is a condition of employment the random use of drug testing? Does the employer have a zero-tolerance policy? Does this mean termination for a failed drug test?


Cited Sources:

2014 Colorado Employers’ Drug Testing Policy Survey. Rep. Denver: Mountain States Employers Council, 2014. Print.

“Marijuana: Facts for Teens.” Want to Know More?- Some FAQs about Marijuana. NIH – National Institute on Drug Abuse, n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2014.


By Mary Michael Hawkins
Mary Michael Hawkins Director, Undergraduate Career & Professional Development