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  • Writer's pictureChris Anderson

How medical marijuana affects the worker's comp world

Updated: May 6

In 2017, an administrative law judge from New Jersey ruled that a carrier was responsible for reimbursing medical marijuana for an injured worker who was using marijuana to treat one of their covered wounds. And an insurance carrier in Minnesota has paid for the use of medical marijuana by an injured worker to treat joint pain.



In contrast, other states, like Arizona, take the opposite position. A carrier cannot be compelled to pay for medical marijuana, because it remains illegal on the federal level. Medical marijuana also remains absent from treatment guidelines. In the cases where it was found to be proper treatment for an injured worker, the physician only prescribed it after trying other forms of treatment unsuccessfully.


Even taking into account the different views on medical marijuana coverage in the worker's comp, there is one of the biggest conflicts regarding workplace and employee safety. Many employers operate a drug-free workplace, meaning marijuana use, which is illegal at the federal level, could be considered a breach of that policy. In addition , employers place restrictions on employees operating under the influence, including prescription drugs , particularly when the employee operates machinery or drives a vehicle.


Even if marijuana is used as a medical treatment for workplace injury, they may be prevented from returning to work, much like when opioids are prescribed. Furthermore, once they are permitted to return to work, it raises concerns as to whether medical marijuana breaks the law of drug-free workplace.


While medical marijuana is becoming more widespread in the country, significant concerns remain surrounding its effect on medical care, the workforce, and wages for employees. Medical marijuana and workers ' compensation remain an issue to watch out for.


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