As more and more states legalize medical marijuana, the workers’ compensation lawyers at Pond Lehocky Giordano LLP are paying close attention to potential challenges for injured workers.
According to the National Institutes of Health, medical marijuana may be prescribed for a whole host of reasons, many of which are particularly relevant to people who were injured in an accident. Someone who suffered an injury at a construction site may be prescribed medical marijuana for pain. A police officer who experienced extreme trauma on the job may be prescribed medical marijuana for their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Whatever the reason may be, we have found that many employers’ insurers have been refusing to cover medical marijuana for people who are entitled to workers’ compensation.
This is not only damaging – and expensive – for the victims of workplace injuries and their health, but also counter to many states’ laws that require employers to cover reasonable and necessary treatment. We have now seen cases in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Connecticut where lawyers have won direct reimbursement for their clients when employers have refused to pay for injured workers’ medical marijuana treatment. More and more states will certainly be added to this list over time.
If you or someone close to you has sustained a work-related injury and is facing challenges securing coverage for medical marijuana treatment, the seasoned workers’ compensation lawyers at Pond Lehocky Giordano LLP are available to provide assistance. Boasting a track record of over 100,000 successful cases and a combined courtroom experience of more than 250 years, our firm possesses the tenacity and expertise necessary to help victims obtain compensation for their medical expenses, including present and future care costs, and move forward with confidence. We are prepared to take on formidable opponents such as major corporations, insurance companies, and opposing legal counsel, and will zealously advocate for your rights to ensure that you receive the maximum possible compensation. To schedule a free consultation with the legal experts at Pond Lehocky Giordano LLP, call 1-800-568-7500 or fill out our contact form today without any obligation.
Work injuries and medical marijuana
Medical marijuana has been found to have therapeutic effects in treating a wide range of medical conditions. When someone suffers a work injury, one typically imagines they will be in pain or experience some form of long-lasting trauma. It can be easy to forget that all kinds of complications can arise from injuries sustained from a serious work incident. More insidious conditions, like cancer or brain injuries, may also become evident over time. Medical marijuana has proven adept at treating the symptoms of all of these conditions and more.
Chronic pain: Medical marijuana has been found effective in managing chronic pain caused by conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, and arthritis. The cannabinoids in medical marijuana, specifically THC and CBD, have been found to have pain-relieving properties.
Epilepsy: Medical marijuana has been found to have anticonvulsant properties that can help reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures in people with epilepsy. Studies attribute this beneficial effect to CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in medical marijuana. Treating patients in this manner has been found particularly effective in treating severe epilepsy that does not respond to conventional therapies.
Anxiety: Medical marijuana can also help alleviate anxiety symptoms. THC, the psychoactive compound in medical marijuana, has been found to have anxiolytic properties that can help reduce anxiety symptoms. CBD has also been found to have a calming effect that can help alleviate anxiety symptoms. Last but not least, medical marijuana can be particularly effective in treating anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Cancer: The cannabinoids in medical marijuana, specifically THC and CBD, have been found to have anti-cancer properties that can help slow down the growth of cancer cells. Medical marijuana has also been found to be effective in managing the side effects of chemotherapy, which can include nausea and vomiting.
Glaucoma: Medical marijuana has been found effective in reducing intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma. The cannabinoids in medical marijuana, specifically THC, have been found to have a vasodilatory effect that can help reduce intraocular pressure. As with epilepsy, medical marijuana can be particularly effective in treating glaucoma that does not respond to conventional treatments.
Multiple Sclerosis: The cannabinoids in medical marijuana, specifically THC and CBD, have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in people with multiple sclerosis. Medical marijuana has also been found effective in managing the muscle spasms and pain associated with multiple sclerosis.
Crohn’s disease: THC and CBD have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the gut. Medical marijuana has also been found to be effective in managing the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea.
As stated above, medical marijuana can be used for a wide variety of health applications. To refuse an injured worker compensation for their medical marijuana treatment is tantamount to denying them coverage for any other medically necessary treatment.
Medical marijuana as a superior alternative to opioids
One of the more common reasons medical marijuana may be prescribed to an injured worker is for the treatment of chronic pain. Traditionally, many doctors would prescribe opioids for the same purpose. However, opioids are associated with numerous side effects, including addiction, respiratory depression, and constipation. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, has been found to be a safer and more effective alternative to opioids for managing pain and other medical conditions. Medical marijuana has a wide range of benefits over opioids in the treatment of chronic pain:
- Reduced risk of addiction: One of the most significant benefits of medical marijuana when compared to opioids is a reduced risk of addiction. Opioids are highly addictive and can lead to dependence and addiction, even when taken as prescribed. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, has a much lower risk of addiction. While medical marijuana does have the potential for abuse, it is not as addictive as opioids.
- Fewer side effects: Another benefit of medical marijuana when compared to opioids is fewer side effects. Opioids are associated with numerous side effects, including constipation, respiratory depression, and nausea. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, has fewer side effects and is generally well-tolerated by patients. The side effects of medical marijuana are typically mild and include dry mouth, dizziness, and increased appetite.
- Less risk of overdose: Medical marijuana is also associated with a lower risk of overdose when compared to opioids. Opioid overdoses are a significant public health concern and can lead to respiratory depression and death. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, has never been associated with a fatal overdose.
- Effective in managing chronic pain: Medical marijuana has been found effective in managing chronic pain. Chronic pain is a common medical condition that can be difficult to manage. Opioids are commonly used to manage chronic pain, but they are associated with numerous side effects and the risk of addiction. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, has been found effective in managing chronic pain without the side effects and risk of addiction associated with opioids.
- Cost-effective: Medical marijuana is also a cost-effective alternative to opioids. Opioids can be expensive, especially when taken over a long period of time. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, is generally less expensive than opioids and can be a more cost-effective option for patients.
- Better long-term outcomes: Medical marijuana has been found to have better long-term outcomes than opioids. Opioids are associated with the risk of addiction, overdose, and other serious side effects. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, is generally well-tolerated by patients and has fewer long-term side effects.
When employers’ insurers refuse to cover medical marijuana treatment for someone on workers’ compensation – but do cover opioids – they force injured workers to choose a potentially more dangerous option for their health.
Frequently asked questions about medical marijuana and workers’ compensation
Can I use medical marijuana for a work-related injury and still receive workers' compensation benefits?
The answer to this question depends on the state you live in. Some states have laws that specifically allow workers’ compensation to cover medical marijuana for work-related injuries, while others do not. It is important to consult with a qualified workers’ compensation lawyer in your state to determine if medical marijuana is a covered treatment option. If not, you should still consult with a lawyer! As mentioned above, medical marijuana should rightfully be considered a reasonable and necessary treatment for many injured workers, and lawyers all throughout the country are fighting to make sure that happens.
Medical marijuana is legal in my state. Why won’t my employers’ insurance cover it?
While more and more states are legalizing medical marijuana, this substance has not yet been legalized on a federal level. As a result, many of these national insurance companies simply don’t have policies for covering medical marijuana treatment due to the often complicated relationship between federal and state laws.
My employer has denied coverage of my medical marijuana treatment. Do I have a case?
The answer is a firm “it depends.” The strength of your case depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to the state where you and your employer are located, the nature and severity of your injury, your medical treatment history, your current work status, and more. To determine if you have a case strong enough to go to court, you will want to consult with a law firm with a strong record for workers’ compensation cases.
Contact a medical marijuana lawyer for a free case evaluation
To help maximize your chances of obtaining reimbursement and ongoing coverage for your medical marijuana treatment, it’s critical to have an expert workers’ compensation law firm involved. Our medical marijuana lawyers manage lawsuits in all 50 states. We offer free consultations with our attorneys so that we can help you better understand your legal options and the strength of your case. For more information, call Pond Lehocky Giordano LLP at 1-800-568-7500 or fill out our contact form today.