Is Medical Marijuana Covered by Workers Comp in California?
California has a reputation for being one of the most liberal States when it comes to medical marijuana. California pioneered the use of medical marijuana in 1996, being the first state in which cannabis use was legal for any patient with a doctor’s recommendation.
And in November 2016, voters approved California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act (Proposition 64) – legalizing the recreational use of cannabis.
Today, in California, medical marijuana has become quite widely accepted by the medical community for pain-relief and symptom alleviation in many medical conditions.
But, California lags far behind many other states when it comes to the issue of medical marijuana being covered by insurance companies in Workers’ Compensation cases.
Medical Marijuana Not Covered By Workers’ Comp in California
In California, medical marijuana is not covered by the Workers’ Compensation system. So, Workers Comp insurance companies almost universally deny reimbursements for cannabis-based treatments – even when they it is specifically recommended by a doctor.
This policy flies in the face of legal opinions issued by Judges in other jurisdictions who have expressly ruled that coverage of medical marijuana is legal in Workers Compensation cases. In those cases, it was determined that coverage of medical marijuana does not violate the Federal Controlled Substances Act because the employers would not be possessing, manufacturing, or distributing marijuana themselves.
And, in California, while federal law prohibits prescription of Schedule 1 drugs, doctors can make a recommendation for their use after reviewing medical records, including any other medications that the patient has already tried for pain or symptom relief.
Why Workers Comp Insurance Companies Oppose Paying for Medical Marijuana
Insurance companies claim that they are concerned about the “effects” of medical marijuana on the injured worker, the unregulated nature of the business, the drug’s contents, unstandardized dosages, and interactions of marijuana with other drugs and treatments.
However, the real issue at play is probably the typical “bottom line” of Workers Comp insurance companies wanting to save money by denying coverage of new and novel treatments.
Why California Workers Comp Insurance Companies Should Cover Medical Marijuana
A study published in Health Affairs in July 2016, determined that the implementation of medical marijuana laws actually led to a dramatic decrease in prescription drugs. The study went on to show that Medicare would save over $468 million per year on medications for the disabled, especially seniors, if medical marijuana was available as an alternative.
In an article in Harvard Health Publishing, it was also reported that the many benefits of CBD, included relieving insomnia, anxiety, spasticity, and chronic pain, as well as treating certain life-threatening conditions such as epilepsy.
Warning About Medical Marijuana Usage in California Workers Comp Cases
Remember – at least under current laws in California and elsewhere – weed usage can also negatively affect your Workers’ Compensation case. If an employer / insurance company can “prove” that a work-related injury was caused by marijuana use or that the claimant was impaired because of cannabis consumption at the time of the accident, then the Workers Comp claim will more likely be denied.
California Workers Comp Attorneys
If you were injured or made ill in the workplace, we recommend that you speak with an experienced workers comp attorney immediately.
An experienced workers comp attorney can help you identify minor issues before they become major problems – and make sure that you not only receive your benefits now, but for years to come.
Your consultation with our workers’ comp lawyers is 100% confidential, and neither your employer nor your insurance company will be notified that you requested a consultation with us. Our lawyers will help you understand your rights and work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the maximum workers’ comp benefits for which you qualify.