At the federal level, at least, there’s no confusion over medical marijuana and whether it’s covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
Marijuana possession is still considered illegal by the U.S. Justice Department, so “federal workers’ comp is clearly not paying for any medical marijuana, period. (But) it’s a trickier issue on the state level,” said Trey Gillespie, the senior workers’ compensation director for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
Indeed, it is. That’s why Gillespie said PCI is closely watching the issue, “because it creates somewhat of a conundrum for employers. On one hand, they want safe workplaces. On the other hand, they don’t want to infringe on employee rights.”
There’s a lot to watch.
About 20 states, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized medical marijuana, while two states (Colorado and Washington) have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
In Florida, organizers have gathered enough signatures to put the question of legalizing medical marijuana on the ballot in November. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a medical marijuana pilot project in his state.
Moreover, “we’re already seeing a host of bills (in state legislatures) this year related to marijuana,” said Lori Lovgren, the division executive of state relations for the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc.
The NCCI highlighted medical marijuana as one of the top emerging workers’ comp issues to watch in 2014.
Hoping to get a clearer picture, the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions last year surveyed states regarding their regulation of marijuana in workers’ comp claims, according to Executive Director Jennifer Wolf Horejsh.
Most of the states responded that they do not have any specific regulations in place, which may help explain why comp insurers are increasingly receiving requests to pay for medical marijuana.