The use of medical marijuana to alleviate pain and illnesses is becoming more common. Research continues to demonstrate the drug’s therapeutic ability to treat a range of health conditions from spinal cord injuries to arthritis. Because medical marijuana is legal in the state of California, doctors can prescribe it as a part of a course of treatment. However, the drug is still illegal under federal law. Should workers’ compensation cover the cost of medical marijuana to help injured workers cope with their symptoms? This is a focus of litigation in many states, including California.
Therapeutic uses for medical marijuana
Medical marijuana is most often prescribed for pain relief. However, it’s also useful in treating muscle spasms, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and many other ailments. For example, an assembly line worker who develops arthritis may be prescribed medical marijuana to find relief from the severe, ongoing pain in his or her hands. If a warehouse employee falls from a ladder and suffers a spinal cord injury, his or her doctor may prescribe legal marijuana to alleviate the pain and muscle spasms that often accompany the trauma.
Is medical marijuana covered under workers’ compensation?
Under California Labor Code section 4600, any treatment reasonably required to cure or relieve an injured worker from the effects of his or her injury shall be covered under workers’ compensation. This includes marijuana, when it is prescribed by an employee’s physician and is reasonably required to treat the effects of a workplace accident. Any treatment plan that includes medical marijuana is subject to utilization review and an independent medical review to determine whether the treatment is medically necessary. Once a workers’ compensation judge approves a treatment, an employer is responsible for paying for it.
Medical marijuana and the workplace
While medical marijuana is legal in California, there are issues surrounding use on the job. Since the drug is illegal on a federal level, a medical marijuana card or a doctor’s note granting an employee the right to use legal marijuana doesn’t mean they can’t get penalized at work. For example, let’s say a construction worker, Bob, injured his back on the job and was prescribed legal marijuana to alleviate the pain. Six weeks later, Bob is back on the job and his employer requires all employees to complete a random drug test. THC, the active compound in marijuana, can remain in a user’s system long after the effects of the drug have worn off. Bob hadn’t used medical marijuana in several days but still failed the drug test, jeopardizing his employment status.
As you can see, laws surrounding legal marijuana and workers’ compensation are murky, but an experienced workers’ comp attorney can help you navigate the complex system. If you’ve been hurt on the job, contact a workers’ compensation lawyer to help secure the benefits you need to pay for treatment, including medical marijuana.
Call a San Diego workers’ compensation attorney today
Injured workers who prefer to treat their pain with legal marijuana instead of dangerous, addictive opioids should have their treatment paid for by their employers – period. If you recently suffered a workplace accident, working with a workers’ compensation lawyer is the best way to get the benefits you need to find relief from your pain and make a full recovery.
Call the Law Office of Gerald Brody & Associates at (619) 528-9800 to see how we can help.