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Could medical marijuana become a workers' compensation issue?

Regardless of the many state and federal precautions put in place, people continue to be injured in workplace accidents. It may be impossible to completely eliminate such accidents, regardless of the nature of the work. As a result, states such as Illinois require employers to provide workers' compensation insurance coverage for their workers in the event of an accident. However, with more and more states legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, many people in Illinois wonder what will happen if workers are prescribed medical marijuana for the treatment of a workplace injury.

Some people question what insurance companies will respond when they receive requests for compensation for a substance that is illegal on the federal level. However, a representative for one insurance company does not see it as a major issue. At this time, he says, his company has not seen any such request. If they receive such a request, he says, the company will honor prescriptions providing that they are legal in that particular state.

Supreme Courts in two different states are expected to make rulings on medical marijuana-related issues. Most pertinent to the realm of workers' compensation is a case being heard in New Mexico. A judge ruled that a workers' compensation recipient must be reimbursed for the medical marijuana he was prescribed to treat his back pain. The case is being appealed.  

As more and more states, including Illinois, are allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, questions regarding the use of medical marijuana as part of workers' compensation claims are being raised. However, in regards to marijuana, states have historically followed the precedents set by other states. The Insurance Journal touches on other issues regarding the use of medical marijuana.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Marijuana and Workers' Compensation on Industry's Watch List", Don Jergler, Oct. 3, 2014

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