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DOJ tells Supreme Court to pass on cannabis cases


President Joe Biden’s administration told the U.S. Supreme Court it should not agree to review a pair of decisions in which Minnesota’s high court said employers can’t be compelled to reimburse injured workers for medical cannabis because it would force them to violate federal law.

“The petitions in these cases, which present a novel question in a rapidly evolving area of law, do not warrant this court’s review,” the Department of Justice said in a brief filed on Monday. “The judgments below are correct for the straightforward reason that when a federal law such as the (Controlled Substances Act) prohibits possession of a particular item, it preempts a state law requiring a private party to subsidize the purchase of that item.”

If states are allowed to order insurers and employers to pay for cannabis, there would be no legal reason why they couldn’t also order insurers and employers to pay for LSD or other drugs, the department added. And there are only four state Supreme Courts that have addressed the question of work comp payments for cannabis, with two upholding reimbursement orders and two striking them down.

The nation’s high court in February asked the Biden administration to submit a brief describing the government’s opinion about Susan K. Musta v. Mendota Heights Dental Center et. al. and Daniel Bierbach v Digger’s Polaris. Both cases said employers did not have to pay for medical marijuana for injured workers.

The employers and insurers in both cases argue that the state court decisions were correct and that the federal government’s response to changing state laws regarding cannabis is a work in progress.

The Department of Justice appears to agree with the employers and insurers. The department said in its brief that a state law order requiring a third party to directly subsidize possession of cannabis, even for medical reasons, would undermine the Controlled Substances Act, and such a contradiction can’t stand.

WorkCompCentral is a sister publication of Business Insurance. More stories here.