Workers’ Compensation Judge Directs Insurance Company to Pay for Medical Cannabis for Injured Employee

Since medical cannabis was introduced in Minnesota, the number of conditions qualifying individuals for placement on the medical cannabis registry has grown annually. With the addition of Alzheimer’s disease in August of 2019, the number of conditions for which medical cannabis can be recommended by health professionals will reach 14, and the qualifying conditions listed are no longer so debilitating that they can keep employees away from work.

The acceptance of cannabis as a treatment for certain medical conditions has also grown in various professional communities, including the area of Workers’ Compensation. In February of 2019, for the first time, a Workers’ Compensation Judge issued a decision directing an insurance company to pay for the costs of medical cannabis due to its effectiveness in mitigating the pain from an elbow injury suffered by an employee.

While we are unable to share the full case due to privacy concerns, in finding that the medical cannabis was reasonable, necessary, and causally related to the injury, the Workers’ Compensation judge found that the employee had been working with pain management solutions for four years prior to medical cannabis being recommended by a physician, and that her pain had reduced to minimal levels within two months of her starting use of the product. The employee’s physician concluded that all other options, including opioid use, were exhausted and not nearly as effective, leading him to find that medical cannabis was reasonable and appropriate.

While new to the state of Minnesota, this is a result that can be expected more frequently now that cannabis is being considered an effective treatment for an abundance of conditions. Employers need to understand the laws as they apply to the use of medical cannabis and employee’s rights to use that to combat symptoms from serious health conditions. Minnesota is one of the most protective states when it comes to acceptance of employees with serious medical conditions using cannabis to deal with those symptoms.

If you or your company have questions about employee use of medical cannabis, contact the Wiley Law Office, for advice that works.