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DANA POINT, California — With medical marijuana being legal in 25 states and Washington — and with some of them mandating health insurance reimbursements — workers compensation experts say it is still unclear whether cannabis could replace highly addictive opioids in an effort to safely manage pain.
“It’s a false choice,” said Michael Gavin, president of Prium, a Duluth Georgia-based medical cost management firm, during a panel discussion on trends in workers comp at the California Workers’ Compensation & Risk Conference in Dana Point, California this month. He warned that medical evidence is not conclusive on the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana.
There is a concern that marijuana is becoming scientifically enhanced, with little data showing whether such chemical alterations are harmful to users, said Jennifer Jordan, chief legal officer and a founding member of Columbia, Maryland-based Medval L.L.C., a national provider of Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services.
Still, despite those concerns, Ms. Jordan noted that “nobody is overdosing” on marijuana, as is the problem with opioids.
Robert Wilson, Sarasota, Florida-based president and chief executive officer of Workerscompensation.com L.L.C., said medical marijuana appears to be becoming more widely accepted, despite a lack of information on patient safety.
“I’m not a pro-marijuana guy, but I think (legalization is) coming… we don’t have a lot of information but we know it’s coming,” he said.
“Don’t trade one demon for another if you don’t know the demon you are dealing with,” Mr. Wilson added about substituting opioid use with marijuana.
Mr. Gavin predicted that within the next two years, marijuana will be reclassified as a Schedule II drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Cannabis currently is classified as a Schedule I illegal substance, similar to heroin.
DEA rules state that Schedule II drugs, which include the commonly prescribed opioid oxycodone, can be dispensed one time under the same prescription.
Medical marijuana should be classified as “reasonable and necessary medical care” and paid for under a New Mexico man's workers compensation claim, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled last week.