Safety and OSHA News

Court: Positive weed test doesn’t automatically mean person is intoxicated

An appeals court recently found a worker who tested positive for marijuana in a post-incident drug test was eligible for workers’ compensation benefits despite the positive test results. 

The court reversed and reinstated an administrative law judge order providing benefits to the worker because the “presence of an intoxicating substance in the blood does not automatically mean a person is intoxicated.”

The worker admitted to using marijuana the night before his hand was crushed in a “guillotine” machine, but claimed its use wasn’t a factor in the incident.

Afterwards, the worker had to take a post-incident drug test which turned out positive for marijuana and morphine.

He filed a workers’ compensation claim, but it was initially denied because of the positive drug test results.

‘I was not working while impaired’

At a hearing before an administrative law judge, the worker admitted he smoked marijuana the night before the incident, but told the judge marijuana wasn’t the reason he got injured, according to a blog post by law firm Jackson Lewis.

He acknowledged that putting his hand in the machine was unsafe, but stated he was thinking clearly and was not working while impaired.

The worker testified that no supervisors remarked that he seemed to be impaired on the day the incident occurred, and a manager testified he had no knowledge of the worker being intoxicated on the day he was injured.

The judge ruled the employer should provide medical treatment and temporary benefits, but the company sought a review before the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission.

No ‘clear and convincing evidence’

After the review, the commission reversed the judge’s ruling and said the worker wasn’t entitled to benefits.

However, the state appeals court found the commission was wrong on a few points, such as concluding the worker’s testimony was “self-serving” rather than determining whether there was “clear and convincing evidence” to support the judge’s finding that intoxication didn’t cause the injury.

There was no evidence to refute the worker’s statements about the circumstances of the accident, according to the appeals court.

Further, the appeals court found the commission was wrong when it said it wasn’t convinced the worker was clear-headed when the incident occurred.

The court rejected the commission’s “inference that the mere presence of marijuana … inevitably means he was intoxicated,” and reversed and reinstated the judge’s order providing the worker with benefits.

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