As of April 9, 2018, All of the states within the reach of Ferguson Insurance Center have either legalized, provided affirmative defense for, or have a bill written to introduce medical marijuana.
As a contractor, this means that certain injuries or ailments that some injured workers have faced could be using marijuana as medication in the near future, if not already.
How does this effect your business? Will these "medicines" be covered by Workers comp?
There are three key questions workers compensation insurers have been contemplating when it comes to the states that are adopting laws that grant permission for use of marijuana.
These seemingly simple questions are giving insurers very complex problems. To understand what's likely to happen in our states we look at how things are going in the current states where there is legal pot, either medically or recreational.
Firstly, knowing that weed is Federally illegal means that, at least for now, Medicare and Medicaid Services will continue to require that its health care providers operate in compliance with federal law. Plus, marijuana can't be given a National Drug Code for the same reason.
One major example of what we could expect is Hawaii Employers' Mutual Insurance Co. which recently decided to cancel all workers compensation policies for medical cannabis dispensaries in Hawaii.
However, some states have approved workers compensation reimbursements under workers comp coverage. As a matter of fact, at least five states have required workers comp reimbursement, while only two states have passed laws that explicitly that medical marijuana is not reimbursable for workers compensation.
One of the huge factors to the pressing issue of medical marijuana and its legalization is the fact that Opioid addiction and overdose has reached epidemic levels over the past 10 years. WorkCompWire cited a 2014 report that says three in four "injured workers are prescribed opioids for pain management".
Anecdotal evidence is available to support the use of Medical Marijuana over Opioid medication, but getting real science behind these claims can be difficult because of the strict controls placed on the research of the plant.
So with so much of a mix of results, it seems like workers comp coverage will remain limited until it is federally accepted, which may or may not ever happen. Until then, state courts will continue to write laws that workers compensation insurers will have to watch and navigate.