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A New York town may have to cover an injured police officer’s medical marijuana for chronic pain he suffers after a car accident, a New York appeals court ruled on Thursday in remanding back to a lower court an earlier decision that denied coverage.
Police officer James Kluge was deemed disabled following an on-duty car accident in 1997 while working for the Town of Tonawanda and suffered from chronic pain as a result — an ongoing issue his doctor recommended in 2017 he treat with medical marijuana, according to documents in In the Matter of the Claim of James Kluge, v. Town of Tonawanda et al., Workers Compensation Board, filed in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Third Department, in New York.
Following the employer's workers compensation insurer denial, Mr. Kluge filed paperwork seeking review of the denial of the variance request with a workers compensation law judge, who approved the variance request for “causally-related medical marihuana treatment,” according to documents. That decision, however, was reversed upon the Workers Compensation Board's finding that “it could not approve a variance for treatment already rendered.”
On appeal the court agreed that treatment already rendered should not be covered, but remanded the issue back to a lower court to consider future medical marijuana treatment.
“In an instance such as here, however, where the claimant has a chronic pain condition necessitating ongoing treatment, the Board should have addressed the merits of claimant's variance request for prospective medical marihuana treatment,” Thursday’s ruling states “Accordingly, we remit the matter to the Board for consideration in the first instance of claimant's variance request for prospective treatment.”
Canada may have been the first country in the world to legalize medical marijuana back in 2001, but its provinces are still grappling with what that means in the workers compensation world.