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Can Medicinal Marijuana Be Covered by NJ Workers’ Compensation?

On Behalf of | Apr 20, 2020 | Workers' Comp |

New Jersey’s medical marijuana program serves more than 63,000 people in the state, allowing them to purchase and use marijuana as part of a course of approved medical treatment. Many people who suffer work-related injuries and illnesses might qualify for medical marijuana as part of their treatment, but their common question is whether they can obtain coverage from workers’ compensation for the costs of medical marijuana.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits

When you are injured on the job, you should not have to worry about the cost of medical care. Workers’ compensation laws require your employer to have adequate insurance that covers the treatment needed for your fullest recovery. Workers’ compensation insurance should cover emergency treatment, doctor’s visits, rehabilitative therapy, medication, and more. What happens if your doctor recommends medical marijuana as part of your treatment plan? Will you still have those costs covered?

Varying State Laws

Not every state has legalized medical marijuana, and states have varying laws regarding who might qualify for this type of treatment. Federal law also continues to prohibit the use of marijuana, as it is still classified as a Schedule I substance. Therefore, there is no national standard for whether workers’ compensation must cover the costs of medical marijuana.

The Standard in New Jersey

Not many states have court rulings on whether workers’ compensation should cover medical marijuana, though New Jersey does. In 2018, the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation heard the case of McNeary v. Freehold Township. The plaintiff in that case required multiple surgeries and experienced chronic pain due to work-related back injuries. He developed a tolerance to opioid pain medication, which can lead to dependence and abuse, so his doctor suggested medical marijuana as an alternative.

When the injured plaintiff’s workers’ compensation denied coverage of his medical marijuana, he took the case before the Division of Workers’ Compensation. The judge ruled that medical marijuana would curtail the risk of narcotic abuse and addiction and denying medical marijuana as a treatment would require putting the plaintiff at risk of opioid misuse. Therefore, the judge required the workers’ compensation insurer to cover the costs of treatment involving medical marijuana.

While each case can be reviewed on an individual basis, this case set a standard that medical marijuana is an acceptable form of treatment for some injured workers. State legislators tried to propose a bill that would codify this standard in the law, but that bill did not make it far through the process so far. We will watch for more updates to the law regarding the coverage of medical marijuana for workers’ compensation recipients.

Discuss Your Rights with a New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

If you have a qualifying condition stemming from your work, and your doctor recommends medical marijuana as treatment, you should discuss the matter with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Lomurro Law represents clients with many work-related injuries and illnesses, so please contact us online or call 732-482-9285 for a free consultation today.