Recently, a judge in New Jersey ordered a workers’ compensation insurance company to cover the cost of an injured worker’s medical marijuana. The case marks a potentially precedent-setting opinion. The 39-year-old man in question suffers from lingering pain in his left hand after a work injury he suffered while using a saw nine years ago. His neurologist reports marijuana treatment was appropriate because it offers the chance to lower his prescription opiate use, which has substantial side effects.
Plaintiff sought reimbursement for medical marijuana he purchased at a local dispensary over the course of several months after being approved and enrolled for the state’s medical marijuana program. The judge’s ruling allows him to be covered for treatment in the future. It is believed this is the first ruling in that state to address whether a workers’ compensation insurer should be compelled to pay for medical marijuana, with the court finding the drug was both necessary and reasonable in this case.
Here in North Carolina and South Carolina, medical marijuana is not an option extended to workers – or anyone else – yet. North Carolina is one of 21 states that has decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug, but HB 78, a bill introduced in 2015 that would have introduced comprehensive medical marijuana legislation for serious conditions and injuries, died in the house judiciary committee. However, a new bill is likely to be introduced this legislative season. In South Carolina last month, on the first day of the legislative season, state lawmakers introduced a comprehensive medical marijuana bill that would allow those seriously ill or injured to access medical marijuana from a state-regulated dispensary. Continue reading