Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers: Medical MarijuanaFebruary 3, 2017
As of November 2016, 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. And several other states have approved the use of cannabidiol, a component of marijuana, while still prohibiting the use of THC, the chemical compound responsible for the “high.” As efforts to legalize the use of medical marijuana continue to grow, many Workers’ Compensation insurers are denying coverage due to the fact that it is still classified as a Schedule I substance. Whether that changes anytime soon remains unclear, but there are pros and cons to both sides of the issue.
Pros of Medical Marijuana
- Pain Management Alternative: According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, clinical trials show that medical marijuana is effective at relieving chronic and nerve pain, providing an alternative to opiate pain medications.
- Current Cases of Medical Marijuana Use in Workers’ Compensation: The New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled in favor of medical marijuana on numerous occasions, citing that it was “reasonable and necessary” for workers who had been injured on the job. In these cases, the court ordered the employer to reimburse the injured employee for the cost of the medical marijuana after other traditional therapies did not provide pain relief.
- Legislation to Reclassify Marijuana is Pending: The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act would give states the responsibility to make decision about marijuana policy. It would also reclassify marijuana to a Schedule II substance with an “Acceptable Medical Use.” This legislation is currently stalled in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
- Marijuana Research Has Been Expanded: By allowing more people to legally grow marijuana for medical purposes, it gives researchers more opportunity to study the medical benefits.
Cons of Medical Marijuana
- Workplace Safety: If an employee is taking medical marijuana and becomes impaired, or experiences balance or coordination problems, or delayed reactions times, it can cause workplace injuries. More research in needed to confirm the benefits versus the risks of medical marijuana use.
- Drug-Free Workplace Policies: Even when used for medical purposes, there are legal ramifications due to the fact that marijuana is still a Schedule I substance.
- New Mexico is Reconsidering Reimbursement: While New Mexico was the first state to pass a reimbursement rule for medical marijuana, it is now rethinking its stance. In November 2016, the state set forth a bill stating that Workers’ Compensation insurers did not have to reimburse employees for medical marijuana.
- Current Administration’s Position is Unclear: At this point, it is too early to anticipate the President’s position on this issue, and whether he will consider reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance.
As more court decisions are made and new legislation is passed, the use of medical marijuana in the workplace will be an ongoing issue. Going forward, the discrepancy between state and federal laws will need to be addressed and resolved.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for the Rights of Injured Workers
If you have been injured at work and you have questions about whether your Workers’ Compensation plan will reimburse you for medical marijuana, the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help. The laws surrounding this issue are complex and we are here to ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you receive the benefits that you deserve. For a free consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.