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Employers nonetheless battle with medical pot reimbursements – Business Insurance


Injured employees in states the place medical marijuana is authorized face obstacles when in search of reimbursement for the drug, regardless of laws geared toward simplifying the method.

A court docket ruling in Pennsylvania might quickly make clear the problem for employers in that state, however rulings in different states depart an array of authorized precedents for multistate firms to navigate.

Employers typically stay involved that paying for the price of a drug that’s unlawful on the federal degree might put them at risk of prosecution, consultants say.

Medical marijuana is authorized in 37 states and the District of Columbia, and several other states have launched laws this 12 months that might permit or develop its use, in accordance with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which advocates for decriminalization of marijuana.

Lawmakers in Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Carolina and Tennessee have launched, or are planning to introduce, laws to legalize medical marijuana, in accordance with NORML.

New Jersey, Texas and West Virginia, in the meantime, wish to develop and amend their current medical marijuana packages.

Under federal regulation, although, hashish is against the law and categorized as a Schedule 1 drug, together with heroin, LSD, ecstasy and different potent medication.

Amid legislative adjustments, state courts have cut up on whether or not injured employees ought to have entry to marijuana and the way. Some have dominated reimbursement is permitted, even ordered it in some instances, and others have mentioned it will violate the federal Controlled Substances Act.  

Employers and employees compensation insurers typically say that no matter their very own preferences, they’re barred from paying reimbursements for hashish, mentioned Jenifer Kaufman, an Abington, Pennsylvania-based claimants lawyer. Cannabis is usually used as a substitute for prescription painkillers.

Employers in Pennsylvania are ready for a ruling on hashish reimbursements from the state’s Commonwealth Court, which is quickly anticipated to problem a choice in Sheetz v. Workers Compensation Appeal Board (Firestone Tire & Rubber). Courts within the state haven’t beforehand dominated on the problem.

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana regulation incorporates no requirement for employers to cowl the price of a employee’s medical marijuana however it’s silent on reimbursement.

“They don’t define coverage,” Ms. Kaufman mentioned. “I don’t believe that coverage and reimbursement are the same thing.”

Elsewhere, the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine in 2018 overturned decrease court docket rulings permitting injured employees to be reimbursed for medical marijuana.

The court docket wrote in Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co. that “an employer that is ordered to compensate an employee for medical marijuana costs is thereby required to commit a federal crime.”

“I was disappointed, frankly. I thought the appellate division got it right,” lawyer Paul Sighinolfi mentioned of the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine’s Bourgoin resolution.

Mr. Sighinolfi was the manager director and chairman of the Maine Workers’ Compensation Board from 2011 to 2019. He now serves as senior managing director of Burlington, Massachusetts-based Ametros Financial Corp.

Other state appeals courts – resembling these in New Hampshire and New Jersey — have taken an reverse stance, ruling that insurers and employers should or can reimburse.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2022 declined to take up the problem after conflicting messages from state courts. It was requested to handle the problem following a ruling by the Supreme Court of Minnesota figuring out employers don’t have to reimburse for medical marijuana in comp.

The denial put the problem again within the state courts.

Bert Randall Jr., a protection lawyer with Baltimore-based Franklin & Prokopik P.C., mentioned he’s “hesitant to support reimbursement … only because of the substantial issues that employers and their insurers face when it comes to banking issues and dealing with some of the safety concerns by the use of marijuana,” which is unregulated by way of dosing.

Because of a federal prohibition on unlawful industries utilizing the banking system, “it really puts employers and their insurers in very difficult positions,” he mentioned.

In some states the place courts have ordered reimbursement, fee has gone on to the injured employee and to not a dispensary or supplier, Mr. Randall mentioned.  

Clients have needed to provide you with “fairly odd protocols” for reimbursement, he mentioned.

“The mechanics of it, because of the restrictions on banking and making certain types of payments and the potential repercussions from that, creates a lot of concern,” he mentioned.

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