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Employer not obligated to pay for medical pot: Maine high court

Employer not obligated to pay for medical pot: Maine high court

Addressing for the first time the intersection of Maine’s state laws that permit medical marijuana and federal law that deems cannabis illegal, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled Thursday that an employer does not have to pay for the medical marijuana a man testified had been helping him with severe chronic back pain stemming from a workplace injury.

Paper machine laborer Gaetan H. Bourgoin is currently on total disability as a result of an injury suffered at work in 1989. Part of his treatment included consultations with “a number of pain management specialists” who offered a variety of treatments, including opioid medications, according to documents in Gaetan H. Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co. L.L.C., et. al.

Due to adverse side effects of his continued use of opioids, and on the recommendation of his primary care physician, Mr. Bourgoin stopped using narcotic medications and in January 2012 obtained a medical marijuana certification, court records state.

Mr. Bourgoin successfully petitioned the state’s Workers’ Compensation Board for an order requiring his former employer to pay for the medical marijuana, which became legal in Maine in 2009. The case came before Maine’s highest court on appeal from the decision of the Appellate Division affirming that award. Thursday’s ruling vacated that decision, stating that federal law that prohibits the use of marijuana comes before state law — a question that has come into question nationwide in states that permit the use of the federally illegal drug.

“We conclude that in the narrow circumstances of this case — where an employer is subject to an order that would require it to subsidize an employee’s acquisition of medical marijuana— there is a positive conflict between federal and state law, and as a result, the (federal Controlled Substances Act) pre-empts the (Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act) as applied here,” Thursday’s ruling states.

The ruling also states “…were Twin Rivers to comply with the administrative order by subsidizing (Mr.) Bourgoin’s use of medical marijuana, it would be engaging in conduct that meets all of the elements of criminal aiding and abetting as defined in (federal law.)”




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