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More States Allowing Reimbursement for Cannabis Treatment

Cannabis products and oils.

Anyone in New Jersey who reads the daily paper or watches a television newscast is most likely aware of the controversy raging over the legal use of cannabis. One of the complicating factors is the ability of cannabis to significantly relieve pain. This aspect of the drug’s properties is frequently cited by proponents of making the green plant legal. These efforts, however, often run into a broad prohibition against the use of marijuana for any purpose; the prohibition results from the federal classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, a classification that necessarily rests on the finding that the drug has no medical value.

The changing scene

In spite of the existing federal prohibition, an increasing number of states are beginning to permit an increase in the medical use of marijuana to treat chronic pain caused by work-related injuries. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia have now approved laws that make cannabis available to consumers with qualifying medical conditions.

The impending conflict is obvious. Physicians in states where cannabis use has been legalized want to prescribe the drug for their patients. The federal ban still exists. A recent report found that six states expressly allow reimbursement for the use of cannabis as a medical treatment, six expressly prohibit the use of marijuana, 14 do not require reimbursement, and 10 statements and the District of Columbia are silent on the issue. After the report was issued, Minnesota reversed course after its Supreme Court ruled that it would be “inappropriate” to require employers to finance an employee’s acquisition of an illicit substance.

What’s happening in New Jersey?

On April 22, 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that an employer and its workers’ compensation insurer must reimburse a worker for medical marijuana expenses and will enact legislation to permit the use of cannabis as a medical prescription. The court rejected the argument that federal law preempted New Jersey law and that the federal Controlled Substance Act did not bar it from requiring reimbursement under the state’s Workers’ Compensation statute and rules.

Does workers’ compensation insurance cover cannabis?

In most cases, cannabis is not covered by the workers’ compensation insurance policies carried by most employers.

What do doctors say? Most physicians, even those who were initially skeptical about using marijuana, have conceded that the drug appears to be effective in managing pain. Doctors who treat injured workers with cannabis predict that increased use of the drug will lower the costs of caring for chronic pain sufferers and that the use of the drug will spread.

Anyone who is interested in securing a prescription for cannabis may benefit from seeking advice from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on methods of working around the federal ban on the drug.