DENVER — Workers for one of Colorado’s biggest marijuana businesses learned Wednesday they can be fired for smoking pot on the job or using cocaine any time.
The policy, the first of its kind for O.penVAPE, includes random testing for drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines, but not for marijuana, company spokesman Todd Mitchem said. The two-year-old company employs more than 125 people in Colorado and sells its products in Colorado, Washington and California. The products include cartridges filled with cannabis oil and a battery-powered vaporizer that resembles a pen designed for cannabis-oil use.
Colorado has legalized the sale and use of marijuana. But under federal law it is illegal and deemed dangerous, like cocaine. Mitchem said O.penVAPE sees a distinction between cannabis and other drugs, and enacted its policy after hearing what it believes are indications the federal government is open to changing rules that lump marijuana with LSD and heroin in terms of the seriousness of offenses associated with its use.
Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, noted in an interview Wednesday that lower courts have upheld zero-tolerance drug workplace policies. The state Supreme Court is reviewing a case in which a quadriplegic medical-marijuana user is challenging being fired for failing a company drug test.
“I don’t think many people are rethinking their drug policies,” Brough said, saying such policies are designed to keep employees and customers safe.
Jason Warf, legislative director of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, an industry group, said many marijuana businesses in Colorado were small, and he expected few to take on the expense of drafting workplace drug policies. Warf also said he questioned the cost-effectiveness of drug testing as a means of preventing accidents at work.
O.penVAPE had safety in mind, Mitchem said. Having a workplace drug policy reflects O.penVAPE’s sense of itself as an industry leader and a growing company just like any other, he said.
“If we want credibility, we have to act like grown-ups,” Mitchem said.