The Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to refrain from reviewing a pair of recent decisions made by Minnesota’s Supreme Court denying two workers’ requests for reimbursement of medical marijuana.
Attorneys for both workers submitted requests asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the cases and provide guidance for lower courts, but the DOJ says the request should be denied because it could force employers to violate federal law.
Employers forced to violate Controlled Substances Act
In Susan Musta v. Mendota Heights Dental Center, the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed a workers’ compensation appeals court decision forcing the employer to pay for medical marijuana. The state’s high court said forcing the employer to pay for medical marijuana was forcing it to violate the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The same applied to the other case, Daniel Bierbach v. Digger Polaris, which also saw the employer ordered to pay for a worker’s medical marijuana.
The federal high court asked the DOJ to weigh in on whether it should review these two Minnesota cases, which had been decided in 2021.
Federal legalization the solution?
In response, the DOJ said the requests for review should be denied because of the rapidly evolving nature of marijuana legalization from state to state and the fact that federal legislation could render any decision or guidance by the U.S. Supreme Court moot.
Further, if the guidance favored the injured workers, the DOJ agreed with the Minnesota Supreme Court in that it could force employers to violate the CSA. If a court could force reimbursement for marijuana, then employers could also be forced to reimburse for other illegal drugs if their medical benefits could be proven, the DOJ reasoned.
And the “narrow workers’ compensation issue in these cases” is only one of many in this rapidly evolving area of the law, which the legislative and executive branches of the government are better situated to consider, the DOJ said.
The DOJ response mentioned that shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court asked whether or not it should review these cases, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would remove marijuana from the CSA’s list of controlled substances altogether, which could be a solution to the problem.