A Delaware judge has ruled that a medical marijuana user fired from his factory job after failing a drug test can pursue a lawsuit against his former employer.
Jeremiah Chance was fired in 2016 from his job as a yard equipment operator at the Kraft Heinz plant in Dover. He claims his termination violated an anti-discrimination provision contained in Delaware’s Medical Marijuana Act.
Chance also claims he was targeted for retaliation after pointing out safety issues with the facility’s railroad ties.
The company argued that the anti-discrimination provision in Delaware’s law is pre-empted by the federal Controlled Substances Act, which defines marijuana as an illegal drug and contains no exception for medical use.
In a case of first impression, Superior Court Judge Noel Primos ruled Monday that Delaware’s medical marijuana law is not pre-empted by federal law. The medical marijuana law “not require employers to participate in an illegal activity … but instead merely prohibits them from discriminating based upon medical marijuana use,” Primos wrote.
Primos also rejected the company’s argument in ruling that the medical marijuana statute carries an implied private right of action allowing a citizen to file a lawsuit seeking enforcement of his rights under the law.
The judge noted that the no state agency or commission has been tasked with enforcing the law’s anti-discrimination provision, and that a medical marijuana cardholder fired for failing a drug test has no remedy other than a private lawsuit.
“The fact that an anti-discrimination provision was included in the DMMA demonstrates legislative intent to remedy the problem of discrimination based upon one’s cardholder status,” Primos wrote.
Kraft Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen said in an email Friday that the company had no comment on the pending litigation.