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Employer wrongly denied medical marijuana reimbursement: Court

medical marijuana

A Pennsylvania appeals court on Monday reversed a workers compensation judge’s decision denying a penalty petition filed by an injured worker who says her employer wrongly denied reimbursement for medical marijuana out-of-pocket costs.

The Commonwealth Court ruled that Maxim Healthcare Services violated the state’s workers compensation law when it refused to reimburse the employee for medical marijuana, which she said she used to treat a work-related back injury sustained in 2015.

The employee filed a penalty petition in August 2019, and a workers comp judge denied the request in April 2020. The Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board upheld the reimbursement denial.

Maxim Healthcare argued that if it were forced to reimburse the injured worker for medical marijuana costs, it would be exposed to potential criminal liability since marijuana is still federally illegal.

The Commonwealth Court ruled that the state’s Medical Marijuana Act does not prohibit reimbursement of the drug and does not expose the employer to criminal prosecution.

The ruling notes that Maxim Healthcare never challenged whether the use of medical marijuana was reasonable and necessary to treat the work injury, but rather, the employer argued reimbursement would be “tantamount to compelling the commission of a crime that could subject the employer or insurer to criminal charges.”

The appellate court remanded the case to the workers comp judge to determine what, if any, penalty should be imposed on the employer.