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Legal Marijuana: Can Pilots, Cops, Pro Athletes Now Toke Up?


Colorado governor John Hickenlooper says, "Don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly."


While Colorado and Washington have legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults, the rest of the country (as well as federal law) has yet to follow. So, what does this mean for those working in these states? West Point cadets versus cadets attending the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs? What about Frontier Airlines (NASDAQ:RJET) pilots, who hub out of Denver? Will a different set of rules apply to the Denver Broncos than do the Dallas Cowboys?

"I know that the major sports leagues have made announcements that they are not going to be changing their policies," Mason Tvert, co-director of Colorado's Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, tells me. "The initiative explicitly states that employers can maintain their own policies."

The Campaign's largest individual donor is tech entrepreneur and angel investor Scott Banister, who has started and sold companies to AOL (NYSE:AOL) and Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), was an early backer of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), and sits on the board of PayPal (NASDAQ:EBAY). And, though employers can set their own rules, Tvert believes they have better things to do with their resources.

"A lot of employers out there have no interest in firing their employees just because they use marijuana in their spare time," Tvert says.

Nate Newton, a former Dallas Cowboy, told USA Today that "You cannot stop it."

"Once the 48 (contiguous) states legalize it, what can college or pros do then -- tell players they can't do it? Come on, man. That's a joke," Newton said.

Still, former Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe says allowing NFL players to partake "will never happen… not in our lifetime, because of the way kids follow what NFL players do."

Attorney Sean McAllister, one of Colorado's leading drug policy reform lawyers, who helped frame the state's marijuana policy, tells me that "you can't be fired for doing something outside work that's lawful, but [marijuana possession] is still illegal under federal law, so this has not been litigated yet, there is no precedent."

However, McAllister confirms that nothing in the law "says employers need to accommodate marijuana."

"You can't be fired on the basis of race, religion, age, or sexual orientation, but states that have litigated this outside Colorado, like Montana and California, have said, 'You don't enjoy any special rights regarding marijuana that would prevent an employer from firing you,'" he tells me. "You have a relationship with your employer -- if they have a problem with it, you will too."

To this end, a US Navy commander who spoke to me on condition of anonymity said, "It's real simple. If you're in the service or law enforcement or private security or any other place, you still can't toke up. Basically, if you have a drug test requirement, you still do. Of course, it won't take but 48 hours or so for some sea lawyer E-3 to test the system …"

As for Nate Newton's take on NFL policy?
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