Heights Dental, et al and Bierbach v Digger’s Polaris, et al 

Minnesota Supreme Court Decides Water Still Murky When It Comes to Medical Marijuana Coverage for Workers’ Comp

Should worker’ compensation cover medical marijuana costs? The Minnesota Supreme Court reviews two cases to decide.
By:  | September 30, 2022

In October 2021, two separate cases came before the Minnesota Supreme Court regarding reimbursement for injured workers medical marijuana.Musta v Mendota Heights Dental, et alandBierbach v Digger’s Polaris, et alboth denied coverage to reimburse medical marijuana for a workers’ compensation claim.

Susan Mendota was injured while on the job and suffered from ongoing chronic pain. Court records show that “after multiple rounds of medical intervention were unsuccessful, Musta’s doctor certified her for participation in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program.”

Daniel Bierbach was diagnosed with intractable pain after an ankle injury on the job and enrolled in Minnesota’s medical cannabis research program. 

In both accounts, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals ruled that the employers in the individual cases could be compelled to reimburse injured workers, but the Minnesota Supreme Court said the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) preempted any Minnesota state law.

The workers did not receive reimbursement.

However, in February 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court was petitioned to review the cases in question and conducted its own review. It sought guidance from the Office of the U.S. Solicitor General, which issued a brief later in May. 

The brief noted “these cases, which present a novel question in a rapidly evolving area of law, do not warrant this Court’s review and that the Minnesota Supreme Court judgements ‘are correct for the straightforward reason that when a federal law such as the CSA prohibits possession of a particular item, it preempts a state law requiring a private party to subsidize the purchase of the item.’ ”

As a follow up, the U.S. Supreme Court, backed by the information from the Office of the Solicitor General, decided that the evolving laws around marijuana use make the waters murky when deciding whether medical marijuana should be covered under workers’ compensation. 

Knowing that, it agreed with the CSA presumption.

Scorecard:The U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for court review of both cases. Neither worker will be reimbursed for medical marijuana.

Takeaway:Payers and employers in workers’ comp could be facing conflicting rulings for decades thanks to the federal and state marijuana legal gap. It is best to review your company’s state’s marijuana laws and act accordingly.&

Autumn Demberger is the content strategist at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached atdemberger@theinstitutes.org.

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