Medical Marijuana and Workers’ Comp
October 30, 2018
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) into law in April 2016. Under the MMA, marijuana may be used to treat a variety of serious medical conditions. Eligible individuals must get a recommendation from a physician registered with the Department of Health (DOH), register with the state DOH and receive a medical marijuana identification card in order to get medical marijuana from a designated dispensary. One question that many injured employees have is whether workers’ compensation covers the cost of medical marijuana.
The MMA and the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act
The MMA states that, “nothing in this Act shall be construed to require an insurer or a health plan, whether paid for by Commonwealth funds or private funds, to provide coverage for medical marijuana”. Therefore, an employers’ workers’ compensation carrier is not required to cover the cost of medical marijuana as treatment for a work-related injury.
Although workers’ compensation carriers do not have to make direct payments to marijuana dispensaries as they would for other medical treatments, they may have to reimburse workers for out of pocket expenses for medical marijuana. The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (“the Act”) states that workers’ compensation insurers must pay for reasonable and necessary medical treatment. Therefore, an injured worker may be able to get compensation for medical marijuana if it is deemed a reasonable and necessary treatment for his or her work-related injury.
Qualifying Medical Conditions
Severe, debilitating or life-threatening conditions qualify as medical conditions covered by the MMA. Some of these qualifying medical conditions include:
- Parkinson’s disease- Welders are at increased risk of developing welder’s Parkinson’s disease from being exposed to manganese, a chemical produced by welding smoke.
- Cancer– Workers in various industries are at risk of developing cancer, especially firefighters, construction workers, agricultural workers, miners and health care workers.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)- Workers who suffer work-related serious physical injuries such as amputations or gunshot wounds may also suffer psychological injuries such as PTSD as a result.
- Neuropathies– Neuropathy, or nerve damage, can result from traumatic injuries, toxic chemical exposure or infections.
- Damaged spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity– Spasticity is a muscle control disorder with various causes, including traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury.
- Severe, chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin– Medical experts define intractable pain as “excruciating, constant, unrelenting and incurable”.
- Terminal illness: Maritime, construction, chemical and other types of workers who are regularly exposed to hazardous materials including asbestos and respirable crystalline silica may develop terminal illnesses such as mesothelioma, cancer and silicosis.
- Addiction to opioids or when opioids are ineffective: If a worker who is injured and prescribed opioids becomes addicted to the opioids or the opioids prove to be ineffectual, a DOH physician may recommend medical marijuana.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Injured Workers Obtain Full and Fair Compensation for their Injuries
If you were injured at work and a DOH-registered physician recommended medical marijuana as treatment, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits to cover the cost of your out of pocket expenses. Contact a Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. by calling 888-PITT-LAW or complete our online contact form for a free consultation.
We represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester, and Wynnewood.