CANNABIS FOR WORK-RELATED INJURIES LANDS ON THE U.S. SUPREME COURT DOCKET

As we’ve written about before, the New York workers’ comp system does provide coverage for medical marijuana in a limited number of cases. However, issues remain because of federal law on the issue – which has now reached the United States Supreme Court in two workers’ comp cases from Minnesota.

The injured workers in these cases were prescribed medical cannabis to treat intractable pain from workplace injuries and the Minnesota Workers’ Comp Board directed the employers and their insurance carriers to reimburse the workers for the expense.  The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the Board, ruling that the employer could not be ordered to pay for cannabis in violation of federal law.

The workers’ attorneys have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which asked the Biden administration to submit a brief.  In response, the Department of Justice has argued that the appeal should be denied because when federal law prohibits possession, it also “preempts a state law requiring a private party to subsidize the purchase of that item.”  The Department of Justice also noted that four state supreme courts have ruled on this issue with two directing reimbursement (New Hampshire and New Jersey) and two denying it (Maine and Wisconsin).

It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will ultimately decide to hear the case, let alone how it will rule.  From a New York workers’ comp standpoint, the most that can be said is that the law does provide coverage for medical marijuana in some cases … for now.

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