It’s High Time to Consider How Medical Marijuana Could Affect Workers’ Comp Key Questions YOU Need to Consider

//It’s High Time to Consider How Medical Marijuana Could Affect Workers’ Comp Key Questions YOU Need to Consider

It’s High Time to Consider How Medical Marijuana Could Affect Workers’ Comp Key Questions YOU Need to Consider

Although a recently proposed piece of legislation regarding medical marijuana stalled in the Alabama House (it passed with a surprising majority in the Senate), it remains incredibly important to consider what the potential passage of such a bill could mean for workers’ compensation claims. Currently legal in 33 states, medical marijuana is making it to the mainstream—and it may be only a matter of time before Alabama follows suit.

Whether marijuana is thought to be a contributing factor to a workplace incident or is the proposed remedy for an injury suffered on the job, here are some key questions that must be asked in this new era of marijuana as mainstream window .

Does medical marijuana legalization lead the way for more workplace accidents?

Is marijuana truly a preferred alternative to traditionally prescribed, but highly addictive opioids?

When an employee is injured on the job and prescribed medical cannabis, is workers’ comp responsible to pay?

Medical Marijuana and Workplace Accidents
Does medical marijuana legalization lead the way for more workplace accidents?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, employees that tested positive for
marijuana had a 55% increase in industrial accidents and an 85% increase in injuries.

but
The International Journal of Drug Policy found that legalizing medical marijuana actually
improved workplace safety for workers aged 25-44.

There are conflicting findings about the effects on the workplace of legalizing marijuana for medical use. The only thing that studies can agree on, unfortunately, is that there is no tried-and-true test for determining impairment when it comes to marijuana, which makes it difficult to definitively say whether an employee was high when an accident occurred or if it contributed to the incident at all. Even if employees test positive, their marijuana use could have been several days or weeks prior to the test, making it nearly impossible to prove that marijuana use was a cause.

As legalization of medical marijuana becomes more prevalent in the U.S., states like ours will have some serious decisions to make regarding how they judge impairment among their workforce.

Medical Marijuana and Opioids
Is marijuana truly a preferred alternative to traditionally prescribed, but highly addictive opioids?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are currently 1.2 opioid
prescriptions for every Alabama citizen.

As states across the country—including Alabama—search for a way to combat the alarming opioid crisis head-on, some say that medical marijuana just might fit the bill. These proponents point to studies that suggest that marijuana has similar effectiveness to opioids when treating conditions such as epilepsy, glaucoma and some traumatic injuries—and has the potential to cut the use of opioids by 14%.

Although increased availability to medical marijuana has been shown to cut down on overall opioid usage, some experts worry that there have not been enough studies to know the true long-term effects of medicinal marijuana. Whether marijuana will emerge as a safe—and sustainable—alternative to opioids remains to be seen.

Medical Marijuana and Reimbursement
When an employee is injured on the job and prescribed medical cannabis, is workers’ comp responsible to pay?

While an increasing majority of states have legalized marijuana for medical use, federal law still classifies marijuana as illegal, further complicating the role and responsibility of workers’ comp in claims dealing with medical marijuana. Since only a handful of states (Alabama is not currently one of them) officially mandate workers’ comp insurers to pay for medical marijuana claims, the carrier may have federal footing to refuse to reimburse such claims.
No matter the future of medical marijuana in our state, it’s high time to consider what this could mean for workers’ comp—and what this could mean for you.

Medical Marijuana Has Been Used to Treat

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer
  • Degenerative or pervasive neurological disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscle disorders
  • Opioid addictions
  • Pain syndromes or pain associated with other conditions
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Written by: Loren Traylor, Director of Program Development at THE FUND


2019-07-11T13:50:51+00:00 June 14th, 2019|Blog|