A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that companies must pay for medical marijuana used by employees injured on the job. The ruling applies to a case in which an employee, who was prescribed marijuana for pain he suffered since a 2001 work injury, sued his employer for the costs he incurred paying for the controversial pain-reliving drug.
In 2001, the employee was a 28-year-old laborer for M&K Construction. He was injured by a load of concrete as it was emptied from a company truck. He suffered nerve damage and unsuccessful surgeries left him unable to work. M&K denied his Workers’ Compensation claim for more than 15 years. In the intervening time, the employee was taking oxycodone, OxyContin, and Valium for pain. After becoming addicted, it became clear that a different pain solution was necessary. Medical marijuana helped wean him off the dangerous opioids.
A Controversial Remedy
Marijuana is considered by the federal government to be a Schedule 1 substance, which has no accepted medical use, according the Food and Drug Administration. Yet, 33 states have legalized the use of marijuana for pain relief. It is legal to use medical marijuana in New Jersey, but it has not been made legal by federal laws, which is the argument made by M&K in denying the reimbursement for the employee’s costs related to the pain relief.
Since health care insurance does not usually cover medical marijuana, patients are often required to pay out of pocket. The employee paid $616 for a monthly supply of two ounces of medical cannabis.
Relief in a Ruling
After years of legal battles, a court judgement decided the employee was due Workers’ Compensation benefits as a result of his injury. The ruling included a decision that the company had to reimburse the employee for the costs of his established pain management medication. The company resisted and filed an appeal on the basis that the federal Controlled Substances Act overruled New Jersey’s medical marijuana laws. The company claimed they would be aiding in the commission of a crime if they paid for the drugs.
The appellate panel unanimously ruled that the reimbursement would not constitute a crime, since the employee used the marijuana in accordance with the law. The case is the first time the Controlled Substances Act was challenged in a reimbursement case, resulting in a precedent-setting decision that established that state law should not be preempted by federal regulations. Cases in other states found that medical marijuana reimbursement was warranted for injured workers.
Vineland Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Represent Injured Workers
If you were injured at work, you should be able to collect Workers’ Compensation benefits through your company, including payment for medical marijuana and other injury-related health care. If your claim was denied, you should talk to a knowledgeable Vineland Workers’ Compensation lawyer at DiTomaso Law. Contact us online or call us at 856-414-0010 to set up a free case evaluation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Mt. Holly, Camden County, and Vineland.