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A workers compensation insurer does not have to reimburse an injured cable installer’s $24,268 in medical cannabis expenses for chronic pain relief because Massachusetts’ medical marijuana law states that insurers do not have to cover the drug, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled Tuesday.
Claimant Daniel Wright, who injured his knee while stepping off a ladder in 2010, had appealed a decision by the reviewing board of the state Department of Industrial Relations that stated the federal government’s stance on marijuana—that it is an illegal, controlled substance—barred insurers from paying the cost, according to documents in In Re Daniel Wright’s Case, filed in Suffolk, Massachusetts.
The Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the reimbursement was barred by the state’s own marijuana law, which it wrote “was carefully drafted by its sponsors to take into account this most difficult regulatory environment, with provisions specifically designed to avoid possible conflicts with the Federal government. One such provision of the law expressly states that ‘nothing in this law requires any health insurance provider, or any government agency or authority, to reimburse any person for the expenses of the medical use of marijuana.’
“This provision recognizes that when medical marijuana patients seek to recover the costs of such use from third parties, including insurance companies engaged in interstate commerce, the regulatory environment becomes even more problematic.”
The ruling added that “under the plain language of this provision, those insurers are not required to reimburse medical marijuana expenses for a substance that remains illegal under federal law.”