Can Your Employer Be Ordered to Pay for Your Medical Marijuana?
When you’re hurt at work, you’re forced to follow a number of rules. For one, your employer or their workers’ compensation carrier provides you with authorized medical care. This often means one or the other selects your doctors and must approve all treatment options. With such strict guidelines in place, it might come as a surprise. When it comes to authorizing treatment, a court may actually order payment for medical marijuana.
All things considered, there’s no doubt that cannabis remains controversial when it comes to treating medical conditions. On a federal level, weed is still classified as a Schedule I drug according to the Controlled Substances Act. The reason? The federal government asserts that there is “no currently accepted medical use.”
Meanwhile, New Jersey is one of thirty states, together with the District of Columbia – who think otherwise. Deemed legal for certain conditions, medical marijuana cards are issued to those who may benefit from the natural plant. Most patients will tell you legal purchase of cannabis is extremely expensive. Unfortunately, prescription plans do not cover it.
There’s a sense of irony when it comes to payment or reimbursement for drugs. After all, just about everyone has heard about the opioid crisis. Yet, insurance companies easily pay for oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. These are all painkillers listed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as drugs that may lead to addiction.
According to a recent news report, a judge recently ordered a New Jersey employer to pay for an injured worker’s medical marijuana prescription. This is the second known time that a judge has ordered payment for medical cannabis for a work-related injury.
Medical Marijuana and Workers’ Compensation
A review of the actual order entered in the matter of McNeary v. Freehold Township makes no mention of medical marijuana. Instead, it may be implied as part of the medical expenses due for reimbursement. According to sources, the transcript of the judge’s decision mandates the payment for cannabis for the injury victim’s issues with muscular spasticity.
Previously, a workers’ compensation judge ordered medical marijuana payment in the matter of Watson v. 84 Lumber. In that case, the judge stated that the injured worker’s “trial use” of medical marijuana had been successful.
Could this pattern continue within the State of New Jersey? Some say that a recent Maine court decision could find insurance companies protesting such mandates. There, the court basically concurred that the workers’ compensation carrier did not have to pay for medical marijuana – as it was against federal laws.