Jun 13, 2019

Medical Marijuana in the Workers’ Compensation System

Lawmakers around the nation are becoming more and more accepting of the use of medical marijuana, which is causing a ripple effect on state workers’ compensation systems as they face a new predicament in how to process claims.

There are 33 states in the country, as well as Washington, D.C., that allow the use of medical marijuana, letting users either head to a dispensary or even partake in home cultivation. Regardless of how medication is pursued, the number of states allowing medicinal marijuana is growing and support for full-fledged recreational use is also on the rise.

Legalization of marijuana is a complex issue with many different types of workplace implications. Employee drug testing and drug-free work policies might have to see a change as well, causing odds to be had between federal law and state legislation. So, what are companies to do about this growing legislation in terms of their workers’ compensation benefits?

How Medical Marijuana Can Affect Workers’ Compensation Claims

When an employee makes a claim, the employer may drug test them to see if there was any drug or alcohol in their system at the time of an incident. However, marijuana lingers in the system for up to 30 days, compared to alcohol, which leaves in a matter of hours. It’s difficult to prove if an employee was impaired at the time of an incident due to marijuana use. So, even if an employer can nail down that marijuana was in the employee’s system, they can’t pinpoint when exactly they used it in relation to an incident.

However, an employee who has marijuana in their system may be breaking their company’s own rules of drug-free policies. In most states, it’s up to the employer to maintain a marijuana-free workplace or not, and if that employer has a zero-tolerance policy on any type of use, it could mean the removal of that employee’s workers’ compensation claim.

How Claims Are Paid Out

There is still some confusion around who has to foot the bill when a workers’ compensation claim is made by an employee who uses medical marijuana. This is due in large part to local governments having no stake in policy decisions.

In Arizona, the state updated its Medical Marijuana Act to add in self-insured employers and workers’ compensation insurers as entities that don’t have to pay for medical marijuana. One state over in New Mexico, however, medical marijuana is an equivalent to other forms of medical care that’s deemed necessary and ruled that workers’ compensation systems must pay for the substance.

It’s important that companies know their rights and local legislation to determine the best route for workers’ compensation claims and how medical marijuana plays a role. Tangram Insurance Services provides insight into workers’ compensation resources and can help to flesh out the details of how these claims can be processed.

About Tangram Insurance Services

Located across the Golden Gate Bridge, just outside of San Francisco, Tangram Insurance Services is a full-service Managing General Underwriter and Program Manager offering specialty programs. We focus on industry-relevant coverage, competitive pricing, and practical business and risk management solutions for your clients. Since we are not all things to all people, we make sure to create outstanding custom-built solutions that matter to those businesses, and the brokers who serve those industries. Contact us at (888) 744-9810.