- Dean Smith
Workers’ Compensation Case for Medical Marijuana Makes it to Supreme Court
According to Insurance Journal, Maine Supreme court is faced with the decision of workers’ compensation insurance reimbursement for medical marijuana for the first time as of last month. Gaetan Bourgoin, paper millworker of Madawaska, Maine, had allegedly been left suicidal as a result of narcotic painkillers, and his case is up for consideration.
In 2015, Bourgoin argued, and still agrees, that medical marijuana is “cheaper and safer” than narcotics, and originally won the ruling from the Workers’ Compensation Board requiring Twin Rivers Paper Co. workers’ compensation insurer to reimburse. However, the efforts were met with resistance, and Twin Rivers Paper Co. and the insurer appealed the original ruling, citing that, “paying for pot use, even for medical purposes, could expose the companies to prosecution since marijuana still is illegal at the federal level.”
Maine is not the only state faced with this issue, because:
Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C.
State laws vary on reimbursement
Five states to include Maine, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Mexico and New Jersey, all deemed reimbursement for medical marijuana legal under their individual workers’ compensation laws
Two states to include Florida and North Dakota exclude medical marijuana from reimbursement
Insurance Journal reports, “Members of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court posed hypotheticals to the attorneys arguing the case. One asked Bourgoin’s attorney what he’d do if a client needed cocaine for pain treatment, and another asked Twin Rivers’ attorney whether she believes the federal government will start prosecuting insurers for medical marijuana reimbursement.”
Several viewpoints were tossed around by both justices and attorneys.
Justice Donald Alexander noted that “Opioids are killing people every day in Maine.”
Norman Trask, Bourgoin’s attorney, stated that, “At one point, he was on such high dosages that they were concerned about his oxygen levels at night. He became suicidal.”
Finally, Anne-Marie Storey, Twin Rivers’ attorney, argued that “paying for medical marijuana puts the company in violation of federal law,” and that, “Maine’s medical marijuana law does not explicitly require an insurer to cover the cost of medical marijuana.”
We foresee this issue becoming increasingly common in the near future.
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