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EDITORIAL: Colorado's 'pothead' rap comes at a cost

By: The Gazette editorial board
March 6, 2018 Updated: March 6, 2018 at 4:57 pm
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photo - In this Oct. 2, 2012, photo, former Texas Rangers pitcher Mike Jeffcoat pitches a head of lettuce to illustrate good nutrition during a fitness event in Arlington, Texas.  Texas Wesleyan University has fired its baseball coach after he told a high school player from Colorado that the team doesn't recruit from the state because players there fail drug tests. President Fred Slabach said Mike Jeffcoat was fired Thursday, March 1, 2018, both for his remark and amid an investigation into an NAIA violation regarding players' eligibility. (Joyce Marshall/Star-Telegram via AP)
In this Oct. 2, 2012, photo, former Texas Rangers pitcher Mike Jeffcoat pitches a head of lettuce to illustrate good nutrition during a fitness event in Arlington, Texas. Texas Wesleyan University has fired its baseball coach after he told a high school player from Colorado that the team doesn't recruit from the state because players there fail drug tests. President Fred Slabach said Mike Jeffcoat was fired Thursday, March 1, 2018, both for his remark and amid an investigation into an NAIA violation regarding players' eligibility. (Joyce Marshall/Star-Telegram via AP) 

Living in "the marijuana state" can come at a cost. Ask 18-year-old Gavin Bell, a senior at Aurora's Cherokee Trail High School. Bell finds himself at the center of a revealing controversy, simply because he resides in Colorado - a state known for its poorly regulated pot market.

Bell applied to play baseball at Texas Wesleyan University. Then-Head Baseball Coach and former major league pitcher Mike Jeffcoat rejected him.

"Thanks for the interest in our program," Jeffcoat wrote to Bell, in Feb. 20 email. "Unfortunately, we are not recruiting players from the state of Colorado. In the past, players have had trouble passing our drug test. We have made a decision to not take a chance on student-athletes from your state. You can thank your liberal politicians. Best of Luck wherever you decide to play."

Texas Wesleyan fired Jeffcoat last week, days after the email made headlines.

The university is correct to fire Jeffcoat, but the ordeal highlights a concern for all Coloradans competing for jobs, scholarships or university admissions.

Jeffcoat cannot be the lone recruiter passing on Colorado applicants. He expressed a negative stereotype others harbor in silence. He was fired for putting it in writing.

Choosing employees, or college athletes, costs money. Of course recruiters quietly discriminate against applicants considered more likely to fail a drug test. Colorado has a reputation for disproportionately high marijuana use. Media reinforce the stereotype as part of a marijuana narrative focused on Colorado.

The New York Times quoted Colorado Springs employer Jesse Russow, owner of Avalanche Roofing & Exteriors, saying "to find a roofer or a painter that can pass a drug test is unheard-of" in Colorado.

Employers tell The Gazette, on the record and off, about their frustration with finding Colorado applicants who can pass drug tests. Two of the state's largest construction firms told us they recruit disproportionate numbers from other states.

"This is a very troublesome issue for our industry, but I do not see us bending or lowering our hiring standards. Our workplaces are too dangerous and too dynamic to tolerate drug use," said Jim Johnson, CEO of GE Johnson Construction, for a 2015 Gazette story.

The company's most formidable competitor expressed identical concerns about finding drug-free in-state employees.

"If you're in the construction industry, marijuana use is not acceptable at any time, under any circumstance or condition," said Rick Reubelt, director of environmental health and safety for Haselden Construction.

Coach Jeffcoat should not have rejected Bell for the reason he stated, and Texas Wesleyan was right to let him go. We worry that others share Jeffcoat's sentiment, and act on it, without putting it in writing.

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