Within the last few weeks, two State Supreme Courts have ruled that payers must reimburse medical marijuana within workers’ comp claims when medically necessary.
In response to an Appeal from Andrew Panaggio, a former police officer injured on the job in 1991 and deemed permanently injured, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that his workers’ comp insurer must reimburse him for medical marijuana payments after he was accepted into the state’s therapeutic cannabis program.
And in the case of Quigley v. Village of East Aurora, the New York Supreme Court ruled that a police officer, classified as partially disabled after two work-related incidents, should be reimbursed for provider-prescribed marijuana meant to treat his pain and decrease his opioid use. His requests for reimbursement were turned down initially, until the case made its way to the Supreme Court.
Currently, five other states – Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Mexico – have ruled that medical marijuana is reimbursable in workers’ comp, while three states – Florida, North Dakota, and Michigan – explicitly exempt medical marijuana from workers’ comp reimbursement.
Marijuana continues to make regulatory wins, especially as the Virginia legislature passed a law to legalize recreational marijuana within the state. It is likely that marijuana regulation, in all forms, will continue to see permissible laws and rulings pass as time goes on, especially after a recent study from the National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER).
The study found that in adults aged 40-62, workers’ comp claim frequency declined in response to recreational marijuana laws, as did benefits paid. According to the research data, both claim frequency and benefits paid decreased by 20% from 2010 to 2018. Study authors claim that lower rates in non-traumatic workplace injury and work-limiting disabilities were due in part to these recreational marijuana laws, indicating that injured workers were self-medicating with marijuana.
The primary driver of these reductions is an improvement in work capacity, attributed to access to an additional form of pain management – marijuana. Findings such as these could sway public policy in favor of marijuana use across workers’ comp.