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In two separate rulings issued Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court said workers compensation payers do not have to reimburse for medical marijuana because the drug remains illegal under federal law.
Both rulings, filed in St. Paul, Minnesota, reversed lower court decisions that called for employers and insurers to pay for medical marijuana to treat work-related injuries.
In case A20-1525, involving an outdoor marine equipment company who injured his ankle who was diagnosed with intractable pain and enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program, the court wrote that “(b)ecause resolving a claim asserting that a conflict exists between federal law that prohibits cannabis possession and state law that requires an employer to pay for an injured employee’s reasonable and necessary medical treatment would require the Workers Compensation Court of Appeals to interpret and apply federal law, that court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to decide the preemption issue presented by that claim.
Verbatim was the ruling issued in Case A20-1551, which pertains to a dental hygienist who suffered a neck injury at work who after “multiple rounds of medical intervention” were found to be unsuccessful and was certified for participation in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program.
One judge dissented in part in both cases, writing that the pain relief should be considered an issue in ruling in favor of reimbursement.
“Because the court’s decision overextends the preemptive reach of federal law and denies… reimbursement for the best means of managing” a “painful, work-related injury while staying meaningfully employed, I respectfully dissent,” the opinion in A20-1525 states.
Addressing workplace safety and workers compensation, lawmakers in Pennsylvania on Friday introduced a bill that would clarify an employer’s responsibility and rights regarding the state’s four-year-old medical marijuana law.