Petition for Certiorari in Cannabis Employment Law Case

A petition for a writ of certiorari before the Supreme Court of the United States requests that the Court examine whether federal employment laws apply to the marijuana industry. The petition, filed by Helix TCS, says a review is necessary to show that a person involved in a federal drug crime is not protected by federal wage laws.

The Tenth Circuit ruled that within Colorado’s marijuana industry employers are required to follow the Fair Labor Standards Act and provide overtime pay and minimum wage to employees. The petitioner claimed that this ruling means the court believes “individuals have a private property interest in the proceeds of federal drug crimes;” the petition argues this should not be the case.

Helix TCS provides armed security and transportation in the Colorado marijuana industry. The business allegedly complies with Colorado state law. Robert Kenny is the plaintiff in the original case, he filed a class action complaint against Helix arguing that they failed to pay him and other employees overtime wages. The petition claims Kenny “sought to recover federally mandated wages for his federal crimes.”

Previous to this case, lower courts have ruled that people trafficking marijuana are not given federal rights guaranteed to businesses and employees. “The Tenth Circuit’s decision deepens the confusion, conflict, and lack of uniformity between state and federal law regarding federal rights and protections accorded to those participating in the marijuana industry. In the absence of congressional action, which is not anticipated any time soon, this Court should rule that an individual perpetrating a federal drug crime is not entitled to federally mandated compensation for their efforts,” the question before the SCOTUS says.

As multiple state laws contradict federal law in relation to marijuana, legal questions arise in regard to marijuana businesses. The petition says the decision by the Tenth Circuit to depart from other decisions “imposes an unworkable standard on courts.” It says the opinion will not only affect decisions about trafficking marijuana in Colorado where the substance is legal for recreational and medical purposes, but in other states as well.

“The only way to ensure uniform application of federal law that comports with clearly expressed congressional intent is for this Court to hold that FLSA does not guarantee minimum compensation for those whose employment conduct constitutes a federal drug crime,” Helix argues.

It asks for a reversal of the 10th Circuit Court’s opinion, saying it either creates a “federally vindicable property interest in the proceeds of federal drug crimes,” or requires unequal application of federal employment laws in various states.