The United States Supreme Court has been asked to weigh in on whether federal drug law that criminalizes possession of marijuana invalidates an order on the state level that employers and their workers’ compensation insurers must pay for medical marijuana prescriptions for employees who were injured on the job.
The matter has been a divisive one at the state level, with five state supreme courts weighing in. Two state supreme courts have allowed for the reimbursement of medical marijuana costs for injured workers, while three have ruled against it. Minnesota is at the heart of the debate, as the Supreme Court’s decision will center around two cases from Minnesota. In both cases, employees challenged their employers and their insurers for refusing to reimburse them for medical marijuana that was prescribed as part of a care plan following a work injury.
Minnesota’s Medical Marijuana Program And Workers’ Compensation
Minnesota first authorized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in 2014. Under our workers’ compensation laws, it states that the employer shall furnish any medical treatment, including medicines, that are reasonably required at the time of the injury and at any time thereafter to cure and relieve the effects of the injury. It stands to reason that based on these two holdings that medical marijuana should be covered under the law, but different courts disagree.
In one of the Minnesota cases, an original denial of reimbursement was overturned by an Appeals Court, only to once again be overturned by Minnesota’s highest court. In both cases, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives federal statutes primacy over state laws, could subject employers and their insurers to criminal liability if they effectively pay for treatment that could be viewed as illegal at the federal level.
37 states have legalized medical marijuana, but only six have cannabis reimbursement under their workers’ compensation program. Another six states strictly prohibit workers’ compensation reimbursement, while the others either don’t require reimbursement or haven’t weighed in on the issue. They may not have to either, as it appears that the nation’s highest court will provide some guidance.
The Supreme Court has asked the Solicitor General, who represents the federal government before the high court, to help weigh in on the matter before they issue an official ruling. No specific deadline has been given for the Solicitor General’s submission, which means we shouldn’t expect any new news on this front for at least a number of months. That being said, we’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on how this case plays out.
In the meantime, if you have been injured at work and are wondering how to go about collecting workers’ compensation or whether or not your employer’s insurance provider will cover the cost of medical expenses, reach out to a lawyer to learn more about your options. In the greater Twin Cities area, connect with Dean and the team at Margolis Law Firm today at (952) 230-2700.
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