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A workers compensation insurer is required to reimburse a disabled police officer for the cost of his medical marijuana, New York appellate court held Thursday.
In Matter of Quigley v. Village of East Aurora, the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Third Department unanimously affirmed a workers compensation judge’s order granting a former officer’s request to use medical marijuana to treat his chronic pain.
Daniel Quigley served as a police officer for the Village of East Aurora and had two established workers compensation claims — one involving a concussion with injuries to the right wrist, elbow and shoulder from slipping on black ice at work in 2004 — and a 1998 work-related low-back injury.
After years of treatment, a workers compensation law judge found that Mr. Quigley was permanently disabled as of 2009. In 2016, after years of pain treatment with opioids, a pain management specialist certified Mr. Quigley for use of medical marijuana to treat his chronic pain. The village and its workers compensation insurer denied the request, but a workers comp law judge overruled the insurer and ordered it to pay for the treatment. The village and insurer appealed, arguing that marijuana is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act and that federal law preempts the state’s Compassionate Care Act, which approved the use of medical marijuana in 2014.
The appellate court affirmed the law judge’s ruling, holding that requiring the insurer to reimburse the police officer for medical marijuana did not “subvert” the principles of the Controlled Substances Act. Although the court noted that there is no dispute that marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under federal law, the court held that the exceptions to the law allow for controlled substances to be “obtained directly, or pursuant to a valid prescription or order, from a practitioner, while acting in the course of his professional practice.”
The court also held that the Compassionate Care Act provided “no exemption for workers compensation carriers” and that the legislature “did not intend to exempt workers compensation carriers from the obligation to reimburse injured claimants for their medical marijuana expenses.”
A study released earlier this month showed a 6.7% decline in workers compensation claim activity where states have approved medical marijuana.