Cannabis & Workers Compensation

As an employee, the last thing you want to experience is getting injured on the job. Having to deal with the pain that follows, losing potential income, and seeking medical treatment can be unsettling. Workers’ Compensation insurance is designed to cover these injuries and help with the costs and expenses during recovery. Now that the use of cannabis for medical purposes is becoming legal in a number of states, a doctor may prescribe its use in your treatment. Even when prescribed, before using cannabis as a treatment aid, it’s important to know whether it will affect potential benefits.

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One of the most important things to remember is the term “medical.” If you are under the care of a licensed physician who recommends and prescribes the use of cannabis as treatment or therapeutic aid, your workers’ compensation may not be affected. If the use of cannabis is being used to self-medicate or for recreational purposes, there is a possibility that your claim could be affected. 

A Problematic Perspective

Example #1: Here in Maryland the Senate presented a bill (SB854) which states a new standard for cannabis within Workers’ Compensation laws. There are two main components to the law that may come into effect.  A significant part of the bill states that Workers’ Compensation will be required to cover medical cannabis for injured employees. The law states that the Maryland Workers Compensation Commission would require employers or insurance companies to allow medical cannabis to be prescribed to a worker that was injured on the job. This would allow injured workers to be given medical cannabis instead of different drugs, such as opioids.

The second component of the bill declares that employers of companies within Maryland would not responsible for any workplace injuries that may occur as a result of an employee’s misuse of medical cannabis . This means that an employee may not be given Workers’ Compensation for any injuries that may have occurred as a result of using cannabis without the permission of a physician. This law also applies to any employees who misuse cannabis that is prescribed to them as part of a treatment plan.

(The bill is contingent on the Maryland House of Representatives. If the House signs the bill, it may move forward to be signed by Governor Hogan. If passed, the bill would come into effect on October 1, 2019.)

Example #2 Colorado’s current Worker’s Compensation system does not cover individuals who test positive for a controlled substance under Title 8, Article 42, even though they have passed a law that allows public consumption of cannabis. This would result in those individuals incurring a loss of 50% of income benefits to cover expenses, while the medical treatment portion of the claim still being covered at 100%.

Example #3: In New York, this is the exact opposite. Employers cannot make counterclaims against the initial Workers’ Compensation claim for medical cannabis if there is a valid prescription from a qualified medical professional. These issues are being addressed at state and federal levels and continue to grow. Workers’ Compensation claims are highly scrutinized, with the simplest things being red flagged for review or denial. For the best advice, seek counsel from a Workers’ Compensation adjuster. This will provide insight and point you in the right direction.

At the end of the day, when you’re injured and need your benefits, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


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