In the 18 states that permit using marijuana for medical purposes, more and more injured employees are obtaining legal prescriptions for the drug to treat symptoms and conditions covered under Workers Compensation – which raises a number of issues:
For starters, the federal prohibition against using medical marijuana (MMJ) creates a clear conflict with state laws that can lead to lengthy litigation.
On the state level, Workers Comp regulations are silent about MMJ usage, and cases have been challenged with mixed results. says Jim Andrews, Executive Vice President of Pharmacy Services at Healthcare Solutions, an Atlanta-based medical cost management company, For example, when an Arizona man who smoked marijuana as a recreational drug filed a request for opioids to reduce pain from a work-related injury, his insurance company convinced state regulators to rule against providing coverage on the grounds that using opioids and marijuana together is medically contraindicated.
Because MMJ is a relatively new treatment for on-the-job injuries, there’s little data on whether it’s safe, helpful, or medically appropriate. According to Andrews, “We might find that the downside of MMJ will be demonstrated long after the public starts using it.” He recommends giving injured workers urine tests to make sure that they’re using MMJ and other medications as prescribed. If their test results don’t confirm this, there’s a strong case that they didn’t need the drugs in the first place.
As using IMMJ to help alleviate work-related injuries becomes more widespread, insurance companies will be working with pharmacists to and monitor packaging (i.e., providing childproof containers) and product quality – and to standardize reimbursement.
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