A Delaware woman who claims her employment was unfairly terminated due to her use of medical cannabis lost a pivotal court case last week, which may result in her having to reimburse the state for thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits.
The employee — Melanie Breech, 55, of Millsboro — claimed that she was unfairly fired from her receptionist position at Ocean View Town Hall after she tested positive for cannabis use during a random drug test in April. According to Breech, she uses cannabis obtained from Colorado in order to treat her Lyme disease.
“It’s just like pain medicine,” Breech says. “If you truly need it, you are not using it to get high, you are using it for pain relief. The same applies to cannabis.”
Ocean View Town Hall believed that it was acting accordingly in terminating Breech, who they say refused to cease her cannabis use and vented about her treatment by her employment in a Facebook post.
Breech maintained that her use of cannabis should have been permissible because she had applied for a state medical cannabis card — Delaware has a medical cannabis program that dates back 5 years — and that the state moved too slowly in its issuance of her card. Had the state moved more quickly, Breech said, her cannabis use would have been legal and her former employer would never have had grounds to terminate her.
The case was referred to the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, which ruled in favor of Ocean View Town Hall and stated that Breech now owed $8,000 in unemployment benefits.
Superior Court Judge Richard F. Stokes sided with the town hall in his decision last week, dismissing her argument that the state was at fault in not issuing her cannabis card quickly enough.
“Ms. Breech’s argument that, had the process of becoming a cardholder been faster, her marijuana use would have been legal is without merit.,” Judge Stokes wrote. “The alleged delay in receiving the medical marijuana card has no bearing on the situation.”
Breech, who had been employed at the town hall since 2003, has the options of appealing the decision to the Delaware Supreme Court or filing a civil lawsuit. While she states that she does not intend to reimburse the funds to the state, she says that any decision she wishes to make is hampered by the fact that she does not have an attorney.
“They want all their money back, and I’m going to file bankruptcy because I do not have any intention of paying that money back,” she says. “Basically, what we have here in Delaware is the state saying that medical marijuana is legal, but we have a judicial system that doesn’t stand behind us.”
John Winston is a New York City-based journalist and a media advisor for nyvapeshop.com.
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