Medical Marijuana Reimbursement and the Injured Worker

Doctor holding package with medical marijuana

The landscape surrounding marijuana legislation has been evolving rapidly across the United States. Pennsylvania, like many other states, has been attempting to navigate this shifting terrain with a particular focus on the usage of medical marijuana. In a significant development, Pennsylvania is now including the reimbursement of medical marijuana expenses paid by the injured worker within its workers' compensation program, marking a potential paradigm shift in healthcare and workers' rights.

Court Ruling Sets Legal Precedent

The Court ruled in Malak v. Maxim Healthcare Servs. that coverage is different and distinct from reimbursement. While the plain language of Section 2102 of the Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) states that insurers cannot be required to provide coverage for medical marijuana, there is no statutory language that prohibits insurers from reimbursing claimants who lawfully use medical marijuana to treat an accepted work injury when such treatment is medically reasonable and necessary.

("Since the employer is not prescribing marijuana, but rather reimbursing [the c]laimant for his lawful use thereof, [the e]mployer is not in violation of the Federal Drug Act."). Fegley, 291 A.3d at 953. Malak v. Maxim Healthcare Servs. (Workers' Comp. Appeal Bd.), 396 C.D. 2021 (Pa. Commw. Ct. May 20, 2024).

Medical Marijuana to Treat Work Injuries

Advocates argue that medical marijuana can offer effective relief for various medical conditions, including:

  • Chronic pain
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Certain debilitating illnesses
  • Other health conditions

By incorporating marijuana reimbursement into workers' compensation, Pennsylvania has acknowledged the growing body of research supporting its therapeutic benefits. Injured workers in Pennsylvania will have access to a wider range of treatment options than workers in most other states. When other medicines are ineffective or risky, medical marijuana could potentially allow a worker to recover quicker from a work-related injury, which can be seen as a win for employers, too.

Furthermore, proponents highlight the potential cost-effectiveness of medical marijuana compared to traditional pharmaceuticals. In some cases, medical marijuana may offer comparable or superior symptom management with fewer adverse side effects and lower manufacturing costs. By reimbursing medical marijuana expenses, Pennsylvania's workers' compensation system could potentially reduce overall healthcare costs while improving patient outcomes.

Do you need help understanding your options to use medical marijuana as an injured worker in Pennsylvania? Have you used medical marijuana to treat a work-related injury and now need help getting a reimbursement? Metzger Wickersham is here to help with our legal experience that spans more than 135 collective years of practice. We are proud advocates of worker rights, and we would be happy to help you understand your options.

Metzger Wickersham has law offices throughout Pennsylvania. Call (888) 286-2850 to schedule an initial consultation at the one nearest you.

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