Currently, 26 states have passed, or have pending, laws on medical use of marijuana. In New York, two bills, A.9016 and S. 4041-B, are pending which would permit medical prescriptions for marijuana.
The consequences for employers and workers’ compensation are far reaching. Some have said it is possible marijuana will be a substitute for the far more expensive and addictive Oxycontin – a substitution that might be welcomed by some carriers. However, there is a near certain potential for work comp claims being filed solely to obtain free marijuana.
The claims, most likely, will be “medical only” claims with little lost time. Such claims rarely receive much attention by the Workers’ Compensation Board – especially when the medical bills are minimal. The cost of adjudication is multiples of the underlying charges.
Senate bill, S. 4041-B, prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee, or leased employee, for using medical marijuana. The bill also provides that medical marijuana may not be used publically or in any area where tobacco is prohibited.
The Senate bill permits prescribing for certain conditions, of which chronic pain is a qualified condition. This effectively means that a determined employee will certainly be able to find a facility willing to issue a prescription.
The social problem for the employer’s workplace will be the patient who may not openly use marijuana but is too open in boasting of its availability, free, to some employees. Added to that will be the protections against discrimination – which are quickly discovered by many people. (workersxzcompxzkit)
The chief problem for employers will be the legitimization of a practice formerly considered a crime and not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. There will be impacts upon drug-free workplace initiatives and a dilemma if a “patient” finds a way to obtain more marijuana than has been prescribed.
Author: Attorney Theodore Ronca is a practicing lawyer from Aquebogue, NY. He is a frequent writer and speaker, and has represented employers in the areas of workers' compensation, Social Security disability, employee disability plans and subrogation for over 30 years. Attorney Ronca can be reached at 631-722-2100.
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