Putting someone in jail isn’t the only way to penalize marijuana smoking. Those celebrating the legalization of pot in Colorado might be disturbed to hear that non-criminal penalties for using pot might increase even as legal barriers fold. Over at The Daily Beast, Andrew Cohen decries one case in which a quadriplegic living in Colorado lost his job for smoking pot, even though he had registered with the state as a medical marijuana user. The Denver Post notes that this could remain more common than many realize:
Even marijuana advocates warn that there can still be serious consequences for cannabis use in Colorado. Employers can fire employees for off-the-job use, and landlords can evict tenants. Marijuana use can impact a person’s government benefits or a child-custody case.
As legal penalties for drug use decrease, expect to see a lot more stories like this. Regardless of what you think about the justice of non-criminal sanctions against drug use, in general, companies and other institutions are going to want to step in where the government has stepped out, reserving the right to penalize Americans whose use of pot reduces their productivity or their reliability. Job-loss won’t be the only sanction drug users could face in a state with legalized pot; drug use could also become a roadblock to enrolling in college or receiving government aid. If the era of criminalization is ending, the era of social sanctions may just be beginning.