BizFeed: Companies Can Fire Over Medical Marijuana Use, Court Says

Plus: Gap closing 175 stores; Saving money for retirement when you're buried in student loans.

Court: Worker Can Be Fired for Medical Pot Use

The News: The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that companies have the right to terminate employees that fail drug tests, even if they have a medical marijuana card. Brandon Coats is a quadriplegic who used pot to help with violent muscle spasms. But when the Dish Network customer-service representative failed a drug test in 2010, he was fired.

Why It Matters: In a world where medical pot use is becoming more and more accepted as a form of therapy, the zero-tolerance drug policies held by employers still carry more weight than any legalities awarded by the state. It seems ridiculous — especially in Colorado where it’s legal to smoke pot recreationally. But, federal law trumps all others.

The Denver Post says “Colorado became the first state to provide guidance on a gray area of the law.” Now, patients like Coats will have to find other treatments for their ailments — like prescription drugs, which have plenty of side effects.

The Huffington Post reports that Coats’ lawyer, Michael Evans is at least happy that there’s clarity on the issue, but is challenging lawmakers to tackle the issue:

Evans also noted that the court issued its decision after the state’s legislative session had ended, indicating that it may have been waiting for the state House or Senate to act and fix the “obvious” problem with the law.

“Today’s decision means that until someone in the House or Senate champions the cause, most employees who work in a state with the world’s most powerful medical marijuana laws will have to choose between using medical marijuana and work,” he wrote.

Gap Closing 175 Stores

The News: What just happened at the Gap? The retailer announced on Monday that it’s closing 175 namesake stores. That’s 18 percent of its total locations, the Associated Press reported. It’s also slashing 250 corporate jobs. The company will lose $300 million in sales due to the closures. No word yet on closures in the Philly area.

Why It Matters: It’s yet another sign that “fast-fashion” brands like H&M and Philly-based Urban Outfitters have been gobbling up marketshare with hip styles and low prices. In a statement, Jeff Kirwan, global president for Gap, said he hopes the move will bring a “more vibrant fleet of stores.”

USA Today has more:

The store closures are part of a larger trend by mall-based brands to reduce store locations, says Simeon Siegel, retail equity analyst at Nomura. Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Deb Shops, RadioShack, Sears and Wet Seal are all among brands that have or are planning to close stores.

“It’s more a continuation of what’s already been going on,” Siegel says. “Your biggest competitor used to be your neighbor in the mall. Right now your biggest competitor is the infinite number of random start-up websites. You just don’t need as many bricks and mortar locations.”

Help! Do I Pay Off Student Loans or Start Saving for Retirement?

The News: In today’s era of high student loans, many young professionals are asking themselves a simple question: Which should I do first, pay off student loans or start saving for retirement?

Why It Matters: It’s one of the first economic problems that many young people will face as they start navigating their personal finances after college. Although retirement may seem far off, it’s imperative that you start saving as soon as possible.

Yahoo Finance sheds some light:

First, do what you can to reduce your loan payments. Lots of people don’t realize that they can qualify for an income-based repayment plan. That can potentially lower your monthly payments to as little as 15% of your discretionary income — AND free up cash for retirement.

Some of you might think, whatever, I’ll just start saving for retirement when I’ve got a good job. But know this: The money you save when you’re young can be far more powerful than anything you set aside 10 or 20 years later. You can thank compound interest for that.