Can Workers’ Comp Include Medicinal Marijuana?
Whether or not workers’ compensation insurers should cover medical marijuana is a hot topic across the United States. In fact, medical marijuana use in itself can be a controversial issue in many parts of the country, as each state has its own laws regarding the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes. Some states require no doctor’s recommendation for marijuana use, other states require a doctor’s diagnosis of certain medical conditions, some states only allow cannabis products with limited THC, and three states still prohibit all forms of marijuana for any purpose. To complicate matters even further, marijuana products with THC content over 0.3 percent are prohibited by federal law, since marijuana with higher THC content is still considered to be a Schedule I drug on the federal level. With all of the varying laws, it is no surprise that there is not an easy answer when it comes to the availability of workers’ compensation coverage for medical marijuana.
Medical Marijuana in Missouri
In 2018, Missouri voters decided to legalize medical marijuana in our state, and many people have since applied to become part of the medical marijuana program. However, dispensaries likely will not open until 2020, so medical marijuana sales and use have not started yet in Missouri. When it does begin, medical cards will be issued for the following conditions:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
- Psychiatric disorders that are debilitating, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic conditions usually treated by pain medication or other drugs that might lead to dependence and abuse
- Terminal illnesses
- Chronic conditions including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, hepatitis C, Huntington’s disease, autism, sickle cell anemia, and more
- Chronic conditions that cause persistent or severe muscle spasms or pain
As medical marijuana takes off in Missouri, the list of qualifying conditions will likely lengthen, and certain work-related illnesses and injuries might be included. If that occurs, will workers be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits to cover the cost of medical marijuana treatment?
Medical Marijuana Coverage in Other States
While Missouri courts have not yet reviewed or ruled on this issue, courts in other states have done so, and the decisions have been split. Some states have held that because federal law still prohibits medical use - even for medical reasons - there is the risk of prosecution if workers’ compensation insurers are required to cover the costs of marijuana as medical treatment. A court in Maine ruled that requiring employers to cover this type of treatment is requiring them to violate the law. On the other hand, courts in states like New Mexico and New Jersey have ruled that workers’ compensation is required to cover medical marijuana treatment under certain circumstances. We will keep watching the trends, as well as what happens in Missouri as dispensaries open to sell medical marijuana.
Contact a Missouri Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for More Information
If you have any workers’ compensation concerns, call the office of The Law Firm of Webster & Carlton. To reach our Springfield office, call 417-890-4600 or call our Joplin office at 417-781-5690. You can also contact us through our online form.