The Minnesota Supreme Court just issued a decision holding that medical marijuana is not a compensable treatment expense in Minnesota workers’ compensation claims.
Medical Marijuana Compensability
The employees suffered work injuries, and medical marijuana was recommended to treat the resulting intractable pain.
The employers and insurers denied the employees’ claims for medical marijuana on the basis that it was illegal under federal law.
The Compensation Judges ordered the employers and insurers to reimburse the employees for their medical marijuana.
The WCCA affirmed the Compensation Judges’ decisions and found that medical marijuana is compensable. The WCCA found that the medical marijuana used by the employees was reasonable and necessary treatment because the employees had complied with Minnesota’s medical marijuana laws.
The WCCA, however, chose not to answer the larger question of whether an employer and insurer could be ordered to reimburse an employee for medical marijuana in violation of federal criminal law, stating that this question is outside of its limited workers’ compensation jurisdiction.
SUPREME COURT DECISION
The Minnesota Supreme Court found that the federal law criminalizing marijuana pre-empted the state law allowing its use. The Supreme Court adopted another state supreme court’s reasoning that the state medical marijuana laws which allow for its use “cannot be converted into a sword” that would require an employer to engage in conduct which violates federal law. The Court also rejected arguments regarding the unlikelihood of prosecution, holding that you cannot compel someone to violate the law just because prosecution may be unlikely. If a party wants a workers’ compensation carrier to pay for medical marijuana, the remedy is for Congress to change the law.