For a moment it appeared we were going to get clarification from the United States Supreme Court on whether reimbursing an injured worker for the cost of their medical marijuana in a workers’ compensation case is a violation of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). Unfortunately, on June 21, 2022, the Court declined to hear the appeals made by petitioners from two Minnesota Supreme Court cases on the issue. Those petitioners were appealing decisions from the Minnesota high court that held reimbursing an injured worker for the cost of their medical marijuana is a violation of the CSA. More specifically, the court said they cannot order a workers’ compensation carrier to reimburse the injured worker for the cost of marijuana, as that would require them to aid and abet in the commission of a federal crime. It is not clear why the U.S. Supreme Court declined the request for review, as they provided no comment with their decision.
As we have reported previously, the Supreme Court of New Jersey held the opposite of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decisions noted above. More specifically, the New Jersey Supreme Court in the case of Hager v. M&K Construction, No. A-64-19 (D. N.J. filed Apr. 13, 2021) held that it is not a violation of the CSA to reimburse a petitioner for the cost of their marijuana, in part because of the federal budget amendment that defunds the Department of Justice’s budget from pursuing those prosecutions. Learn more here in this WG Alert. The Court holding the federal budget amendment has “effectively suspended” the CSA concerning medical marijuana. The Court also held that the respondent in the case was not aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime, as the respondent was being ordered to reimburse by the Court, removing the intent to participate.
For now, it is settled law in New Jersey that there is no violation of federal law in reimbursing an injured worker for the cost of their medical marijuana. Respondents can still argue the drug is not reasonable and necessary to treat the pain, however, this is a fact sensitive inquiry that should be made on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, evidence of a petitioner’s ability to reduce, or stop the use of opioids, often plays into a Judge’s decision when ordering marijuana. Respondents will want to confirm if there is evidence of the same, before authorizing the use of the drug.
We will continue to keep you posted with any new developments on the matter.