The Cassidy Law Firm Blog

Friday, August 3, 2018

Workers’ Compensation May Cover Medical Marijuana in NJ

What medications are covered under a workers’ compensation claim?

The legalization of medical marijuana in New Jersey has impacted many areas of life and employment. Recently, a New Jersey judge ordered that public employer Freehold Township should reimburse an employee for medical marijuana used to treat his muscular spasticity. This revolutionary workers’ compensation case could hold broader import for private employers and employees making workers’ compensation claims in the near future.

NJ Considers Medical Marijuana and Workers’ Comp

Medical marijuana is currently legal in the state of New Jersey, but on the federal level marijuana remains an illegal controlled substance. An employee for the Freehold Township brought a workers’ compensation claim seeking coverage of his medical marijuana, prescribed to treat muscular spasticity which developed from a workplace injury. Judge Simon heard the case and opined that medical marijuana should be covered. After all, medical marijuana has been found to be safer and less addicting that opioids.

Judge Simon found in favor of the injured employee, despite the Township’s protests that reimbursing the employee for medical marijuana was essentially illegal. The judge disagreed finding that simply reimbursing the employee for his lawfully prescribed marijuana would not violate federal law. The appellate court could soon end up reviewing the decision should the public employer elect to appeal.

While this particular case involved a public employer, it is likely that private employees who are prescribed marijuana to treat their workplace related injury may now seek reimbursement. Traditionally, workers’ compensation insurance has offered coverage for prescription medications. As a prescription medication, it is understandable why injured employees may desire to have their medical marijuana covered just like any other drug.

New Jersey is just one of several states grappling with important legal issues surrounding medical marijuana. Now that more states are starting to legalize marijuana, at least for medicinal purposes, courts must determine how and when employers must accept marijuana use. Already, several courts have confronted the issue of whether an employee can be fired for using medical marijuana. Now, with employees seeking direct coverage or at least reimbursement for their medical marijuana costs, courts in several states will be ruling on the novel issue.

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