While the saying goes that there’s nothing new under the sun, there are new ways of looking at old things. While marijuana has been around for many centuries, only now is it being used as legalized medicine in the U.S.
Can it be claimed as medicinal for the purposes of workers compensation in Maryland? The answer is yes and no, and the answer is evolving.
State lawmakers voted to allow medical marijuana in 2012. It took years to create the legal and business infrastructure to accommodate the new industry, which became operational in late 2017.
The active ingredient in marijuana is THC. It is usually prescribed for problems such as anorexia, wasting syndrome, pain, nausea, seizures, muscle spasms, glaucoma or PTSD. Therefore, other than pain relief, the uses for medical marijuana do not fit neatly into the typical workers compensation claims.
Marijuana also remains classified as a Schedule I drug in the eyes of the federal government, and the Trump administration has been vocal about pursuing marijuana possession and purchase as a serious crime.
Also, while most drugs are prescribed by doctors and distributed at pharmacies, registered medical marijuana users can receive written certification from anyone who meets the definition of a “bona fide provider-patient relationship,” which includes any provider who reviews the patient’s medical records, completes an in-person assessment, creates and maintains standardized records, monitors and follows up on the patient’s care. The drug is distributed not at pharmacies but via licensed dispensaries.
For these reasons, insurance companies have at times rejected workers’ compensation claims for medical marijuana.
Where the law currently stands
Some states, such as Arizona, explicitly claim that workers’ compensation insurers do not have to pay for medical marijuana while other states, such as New Mexico, have allowed such claims.
There are cases presently pending before the Maryland Appellate Courts to determine whether insurers for workers’ compensation injuries are responsible for payment of marijuana prescriptions.
Experts say courts are usually loathe to get between a doctor-patient relationship and that until a national consensus is reached, the decisions are likely to be on a case-by-case basis.
If you have or think you may qualify for a workers’ compensation claim that includes medical marijuana, contact a qualified, experienced attorney to make sure you are following all the laws in this new gray area of medicine.