Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Medical Marijuana

Opioid addiction and overdose is at a peak, causing an epidemic in the United States. Researchers are finding that overprescription of painkillers are leading to the spike in addiction and overdoses. Medical marijuana advocates are pushing for a restructuring of the system where marijuana is prescribed over opioids in pain management.

The problem for these advocates lies in the legalization of marijuana. Although it is legal for medical (and even recreational) use in many states, it is illegal at the federal level. The federal Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as Schedule 1 drug along the likes of heroine, MDMA and LSD. Schedule 1 drugs are characterized as having a high potential for abuse, no current accepted medical treatment use in the U.S., and lack of safety under medical supervision.

This has made it difficult for medical marijuana reimbursement in workers’ compensation cases. As state laws differ, so does every workers’ comp case. In cases that prove medical improvement from marijuana, the courts are typically ruling with the plaintiff. Although, some states have passed legislation saying that insurers and employers are not required to cover medical marijuana fees.

When it comes to marijuana use, insurers and employers have a lot to consider. The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) released several articles targeted at the use of marijuana in the workplace. In the first article, The Marijuana Conversation: Questions Workers’ Compensation Insurers Are Asking, they discuss the influence of marijuana in the workplace, enforcing a drug-free environment with legalization, and staying informed with state legislature.

Insurance providers are facing two problems when it comes to the legalization of marijuana. Aside from workers’ compensation reimbursement cases, insurers also have to take into account an employer’s workplace policy for marijuana.The side effects of marijuana usage are widely unknown and this makes it difficult to find cause if an accident should occur while an employee is under the influence of marijuana. As legislation changes, insurer and employer policies will have to keep up.

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