roviders of various services face harsh repercussions when medical marijuana is allowed in the workplace, and forces them into non-compliance regarding employment laws set by the federal government. Employers, employees, and governing state officials regulating workplace operations desperately pleads for the federal government to stop ignoring the squeaky wheel and face the inevitable process of reforming current federal cannabis laws. Systems moving into reform to accommodate each state’s implementation on so many different levels would run a lot smoother if the federal administration would address the reform to the current federal cannabis laws.
Be sure to check your state’s laws often as the movement leads to more change. Photo by ASAChicago
annabis is, by federal law listed as a Schedule I drug on the formulary of illicit and dangerous drugs, making it illegal to possess, consume, produce, and sell. With that hovering in the minds of those who are face to face with dealing with it in some form, leave people worried of being charged with a federal crime, even though they are supported by their state.
isiting a case in New Mexico, a judge ruled in favor for Gregory Vialpando to be reimbursed for the medical marijuana that was recommended to him by a physician after he sustained not only a severe back injury at work, but a failed spinal surgery that resulted in excruciating pain. Under New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act, the ruling is perfect alignment within the policy’s bylaws. The plaintiff’s insurance provider stated in argument that medicinal marijuana is not federally approved, it is not dispensed by a federally license holder, and is not listed on the drug formulary as an approved treatment. The insurance company wanted an understood, black and white answer as to why they did not see where it clearly stated they were indeed culpable for reimbursing the patient for said marijuana.
he judge in the hearing stated, “Indeed, medical marijuana is a controlled substance and is a drug. Instead of a written order from a healthcare provider, it requires the functional equivalent of a prescription; the entity dispensing the drug has to hold a certification to the program that is licensed through our program authorized by the Department of Health.”
Employers hit walls when medical marijuana meets employment law compliance. Photo by Medical Jane
Thrown to the wolves and left to deal with the repercussions on their own, entities such as the employer here and the Workers’ Compensation insurance provider for Mr. Vialpando hold the brunt of the risk, potentially implicating themselves as federal criminals of drug crimes or non-compliance in employment laws.
Two Issues Marijuana Can Potentially Force Employment Law Non-compliance
- Medical marijuana is present at the time an accident at work occurs normally voids the coverage.
- Medical marijuana is prescribed by a physician but it is not listed on the approved drug formulary as a reimbursed drug.
In the report High Times in Workers Comp: The Impact of Medical Marijuana, Nancy Grover goes in depth with how medical marijuana has wrecked havoc on government ran agencies in her presentation during the 2014 National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo. Ronda K. Cordova, an attorney for Ritserna & Lyon, P.C. dealing with Workers’ Compensation cases in Colorado advises employers to have a drug policy in place against the use of marijuana, and to revisit the policy often as change occurs. Allowing marijuana consumption will present a plethora of issues regarding policies regulating employers and protecting employees, forcing non-compliance within those governing bodies such as OSHA, Title VII ADA claims, the Department of Transportation, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Attorneys remind employers to keep in mind the conflicting agencies were put there to protect the business, employees, staff, and community. Photo by OSHA.
Albert B. Randall, Jr., an attorney for the Baltimore firm Franklin & Prokopik, P.C. presented at the Expo and reminded employers and insurance providers that the whole reason these entities and policies are in place to begin with is to keep the organization, their staff, their clients, and their communities safe. The attorney goes on to suggest to those presented with medical marijuana-related cases to keep that idea in mind when questioning decisions or challenging compliance regarding its use. Until there is more supported information about the drug and more support from the federal government, employers and providers should carefully weigh the risk to the stakeholders mentioned.
“You’re damned if you do, Damned if you don’t, there is no right answer.” said Randall
Resources: Worker’ Compensation 2014 Issues Report, Reuters