Recent disputes and proposed legislation in some eastern states may have opened the door for more widespread use of cannabis to treat injured workers, experts say.
Cases heard in courts in New York, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey and New Hampshire have helped develop cannabis as a medical treatment in the eyes of law and insurance, they say.
“For a long time, workers' compensation did not consider medical marijuana a treatment option. But in recent years we have seen a lot of disputes and the interesting thing about these cases is that they all return to the issue of federal preparation, says Jeremy Buchalski, a New York-based partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP.
He spoke at the Business Insurance 2021
While cannabis is still federally regulated as a Schedule 1 substance, meaning that it is determined to have no medical value, state courts have decided whether it can be substituted as medical treatment in workers' compensation cases.
In April, a New York Court of Appeal in Matter of Quigley v. Village of East Aurora ruled that a worker-insurer must reimburse a disabled police officer for the cost of his medical marijuana.
New York has continued to be a leader in cannabis reform throughout the year, announcing an updated drug form and the proposed launch of a web-based requirements portal, OnBoard. The new form calls for medical marijuana to be a pre-medication, says Ronald Mazariegos, claims executive salesman at Arrowpoint Capital.
"This legitimizes cannabis as a medicine, because what the New York workers' board says is that it must go through the same pre-approval process as spinal cord surgery, as oxycontin, as physiotherapy, which treats it like any other type of medicine," says Mark Pew , head of The RxProfessor LLC. "It is the only state that has gone so far, and I think this will be a model that other states will look at."
New York, New Jersey and Maryland have pending legislation that would force workers at compensation insurance companies to treat medical marijuana as a prescription and replace the injured worker.
"From our perspective, it is difficult to measure or obtain information about which medicine is being filled," Mazariegos said. "Hopefully one day we will see a better bridge of understanding between the payer and the doctor to get the recommended and sought-after treatment that we all want."
This year also saw the effect of the latest federal legislation come true, Buchalski said. Farm Bill 2018 legalized "essentially" legalized hemp, which allowed the CBD market to explode on the shelves.
CBD is also gaining ground as an alternative treatment for pain treatment, says Dr. Carlos Giron, founder of the Pain Institute of Georgia in Macon, which primarily treats injured workers. CBD has fit "perfectly," he said.
"It became part of my toolkit to reduce opioids, so much so that for the last seven to eight years now we have over 65% reduction in opioids in my practice," says Dr. Giron.
CBD is not covered by employee compensation.
"Nevertheless, patients have come out of their pockets to be able to do it themselves and found some very good results," Dr Giron said, "after doing so for the benefit of the workers' comp system, for the benefit of society and improving their functional status." Catalog