Safety and OSHA News

Judge says workers’ comp must pay for medical marijuana

Add a fourth state to the list of places where a court has ordered workers’ comp insurance to pay for medical marijuana for an injured worker. 

A key reason why a New Jersey administrative law judge ordered workers’ comp to pay for the employee’s medical marijuana: It would decrease his use of narcotics, specifically oxycodone.

Andrew Watson was injured while using a power saw at an 84 Lumber location in 2008. He continues to suffer from neuropathic pain in his left hand.

Watson had been prescribed 120 oxycodone tablets a month. He told doctors the narcotic medication wasn’t providing him with sufficient relief.

A doctor recommended Watson as a good candidate for medical marijuana. The doctor said neuropathic pain is one of the better indications for prescription pot.

The workers’ comp insurance carrier denied reimbursement.

A doctor testified for Watson before the judge that a course of treatment with medical marijuana made particular sense for Watson because it would decrease his use of opiates.

The doctor noted that the risks of long-term use of oxycodone could impact kidney and liver function, alertness, concentration, memory, and cognitive function. The ALJ noted the effects of marijuana aren’t as debilitating as those of oxycodone.

The judge ruled the insurance carrier should provide reimbursement to Watson for the medical marijuana based on the doctor’s testimony. The insurance carrier doesn’t plan to appeal.

It turns out substituting medical marijuana for opiate use is significant, not only for the impact on the patient’s overall health, but also for financial reasons.

Philip Faccenda, a lawyer who represented Watson, tells that the decision could “offer very powerful cost savings” for workers’ comp because “more costly pharmaceuticals can be reduced.”

New Jersey joins Maine, Minnesota and New Mexico on the list of states where courts have ordered workers’ comp insurance to cover medical marijuana. It’s notable that in similar cases, the benefits of substituting medical pot for an opiate prescription is a factor. As more states approve medical marijuana, the issue will need to be addressed in more locales.

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  1. Tim kilgore says:

    So what’s the rules on a drug free work place that does not recognize thc as a means of medical. But as a illegal drug that can alter your thought patterns and cognitive, and physical ability

  2. This is very disheartening I think. The government needs to stop playing games with marijuana in my opinion. How can you have a drug that’s illegal in all 50 states, but somehow be legal in some of those same states but not others? And based on that fact, how can a court which gets its charter from the government order workers comp to pay for an illegal drug?
    I live and work in Texas, I don’t think marijuana will be legalized by ballot anytime soon here, and I’m okay with that. But I think that the government should probably legalize it to stop putting companies in these ridiculous situations.


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