Employees that suffer work-related injuries may be entitled to certain workers’ compensation benefits, including medical treatment. Specifically, New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Law (the Law) provides that employers must provide employees with any medical treatment that is necessary and reasonable. Recently, a New Jersey appellate court analyzed whether an employer’s duty to provide an employee with medical treatment includes the duty to compensate an employee for the cost of marijuana that was prescribed under the New Jersey Medical Marijuana Act (the Act). If you were injured at work, you may be eligible to recover workers’ compensation benefits, including medical treatment, and you should speak to a New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney about your rights.
Facts of the Case
It is alleged that in 2001, the employee suffered an injury while working for the employer. Specifically, he suffered herniation and bulging of discs in his lumbar spine when a dump truck emptied a load of concrete onto him. The employee filed a workers’ compensation claim, but the employer disputed that the employee’s injuries were work-related. The employee then underwent a variety of treatments, including surgery and the use of opioid pain medication, which he paid for himself, but he continued to suffer from chronic debilitating pain. He then began treating with a doctor who specialized in palliative care, who ultimately determined that the employee was a candidate for a medical marijuana program.
Reportedly, fifteen years after the injury occurred, a workers’ compensation trial was held to determine what benefits, if any, the employer owed the employee. At that time, the employer stipulated that the employee suffered a work-related injury but argued it was not obligated to reimburse the employee for the cost of his medical marijuana. Specifically, the employer argued that paying for medical marijuana would be tantamount to aiding and abetting a crime. The court ultimately found in favor of the employee and determined that employers were not exempt from reimbursing employees for the cost of medical marijuana treatment. The employer appealed the trial court ruling.
The Right to Reasonable and Necessary Medical Treatment
On appeal, the employer argued that the Controlled Substance Act (the CSA) preempted the Act and that it could not comply with both statutes. The appellate court noted that while marijuana was classified as a controlled substance under the CSA and the manufacture, possession, and distribution of marijuana was a federal crime, compliance with the Act did not require the employer to engage in any of those activities.
Specifically, the Act merely provides that marijuana may be used for medical purposes and that people who use medical marijuana to alleviate symptoms of qualifying medical conditions are immune from prosecution. Thus, the appellate court found that the CSA did not preempt the Act and did not require the employer to commit a federal crime. As such, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.
Discuss your Case with a Diligent New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Attorney
A variety of treatments may be necessary and reasonable to treat a work-place injury, including non-traditional treatments. If you sustained a work-related injury, you should speak to the diligent New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall regarding what medical treatment you may be owed. You can reach us at 800-999-0897 or via our form online to schedule a meeting.