Marijuana, also known as cannabis, consists of, among other substances, CBD and THC. THC allows individuals to experience mind-altering sensations and also provides some benefits, while CBD provides medical benefits such as muscle relaxation without the psychoactive impact.
Marijuana may be used for medical treatment for a variety of conditions, but the rules surrounding medical marijuana and workers’ compensation benefits are not clear. If you need medical marijuana for a work injury and hope to have it covered by workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania, you will want to contact the legal team at Frommer D’Amico.
Medical Marijuana and Pain Treatments
Medical marijuana may be used to treat pain. It has become an increasingly acceptable alternative to narcotics traditionally employed for this purpose, especially with the rise in opioid addiction across the country. Some insurance companies prefer the relatively inexpensive alternative of marijuana compared to expensive prescription medications.
Medical marijuana can aid those in pain in several ways. It may be particularly effective at easing neuropathic pain and spasticity, encouraging the relaxing of muscles that can reduce pain levels. It also has few side effects, unlike narcotics, which can spark a host of other symptoms in someone experiencing pain.
What Are the Rules for Medical Marijuana for Injured Workers?
Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act (Act 16) was signed into law in 2016, and this law paved the way for the legal use of marijuana for medical conditions. Under this law, medical marijuana in the state must be in a processed form, such as a cream or pill. It cannot be smoked in its leaf form. The law also states seventeen medical diagnoses for which marijuana can be used, and these include:
- Some spinal cord tissue injuries with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Chronic pain in which traditional therapies are not effective or in which traditional treatment is contraindicated.
Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act clearly indicates that insurance companies such as those offering workers’ compensation are not mandated to cover the use of marijuana for medical treatment. However, there may be ways to get medical marijuana coverage from workers’ compensation claims.
An injured worker may apply to get their out-of-pocket costs for medical marijuana reimbursed after a work injury. In addition, Pennsylvania’s workers’ comp laws clearly indicate that all needed and reasonable treatment for work-related injuries is covered by workers’ compensation benefits. In theory, then, if a physician recommends medical marijuana, it should be covered. Medical marijuana may prove to be less expensive for insurers to cover as well. It may also carry less risk of addiction while being more effective when compared to therapies such as opiates. Some insurers, therefore, may prefer covering medical marijuana to covering more expensive classes of drugs.
Will Workers’ Comp Cover a Medical Marijuana Prescription?
Many of our clients wonder whether workers’ compensation will pay for medical marijuana. The answer to this question depends on each employer’s insurance company. While more and more companies include medical marijuana in their coverage, it’s far from a given.
The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act requires employers’ insurance companies to cover reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to the injury. Whether medical marijuana falls under that description is up to the insurance company to determine, and many of them do not see cannabis as an appropriate treatment. However, if you can prove somehow that medical marijuana is vital to your treatment or even get a doctor to say you need cannabis to treat your condition, you may be able to convince the insurance company.
As time goes on, more insurers will offer coverage for medical marijuana as it becomes a more widely accepted form of treatment. For now, however, approval levels will remain low until using medical marijuana for treatment after a work injury gains greater prominence.
The Process to Obtain a Medical Marijuana Card
If you need medical marijuana to treat an injury that happened on the job, how do you obtain your medical marijuana card? You need to follow two basic steps:
- First, you must obtain medical clearance to use medical marijuana. That means you must have the testimony of a doctor who has been approved by the state. This person is called a medical marijuana practitioner. This special status is one the physician must apply for and complete formal training to obtain.
- The second step is to get an identification card from the practitioner saying you are eligible to receive medical marijuana. You can use this card to get your prescriptions filled.
Is medical marijuana allowed while someone is on workers’ comp? You do need to make sure you’re on the same page as your employer and its insurance company, as issues such as drug testing may arise. As long as you follow your employer’s rules and the rules for medical marijuana in your workers’ compensation case, using medical marijuana for treatment after a work injury may be a reasonable alternative to opioid medications.
Getting Workers’ Compensation for Medical Marijuana in PA
The law surrounding medical marijuana and worker injuries in Pennsylvania is relatively new, and it is likely this area of law will be clarified by the courts in the future. In the meantime, if you need medical marijuana following a work injury in Pennsylvania and are having a difficult time getting benefits, contact Frommer D’Amico.
Talk to an Attorney About Medical Marijuana and Your Workers’ Compensation Case
Workers’ compensation and medical marijuana in PA is a complex issue that requires sound legal advice. At Frommer D’Amico, our team of certified workers’ comp experts is dedicated to helping injured workers get the compensation they deserve. Our client-first focus and personalized approach give your case the attention it requires. If your case is not in court, we do not charge case management fees, which can save you thousands of dollars.
We represent only employees. We never represent employers. Workers’ compensation cases are our specialty, and we don’t practice any other types of law.
Your first consultation with us is free. To arrange your free consultation, contact us online or call us at 717-400-1000 to speak to a member of our team.
Joe D’Amico has more than 20 years of experience fighting for injured workers. He is Certified as an Expert in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Joe is one of the very few Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys who have obtained a recovery in excess of $1.5 million for an injured worker.
Reviewed by Joe D’Amico.