The Marijuana Conversation: What's Next
InsightsWhat's Trending
By NCCI insights September 26, 2017

About this article: "The Marijuana Conversation: What's Next" is the fifth installment in NCCI's Marijuana Conversation series aimed at exploring the issues surrounding marijuana's impact on workers compensation stakeholders.

As discussed in NCCI's previous conversations, medical marijuana is currently legal in 29 states, as well as Washington, DC. It's also legal for recreational use in eight states and Washington, DC. However, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and is classified as a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

NCCI's "Marijuana Conversations" series has focused on questions from workers compensation insurers, employers, employees, regulators, and legislators. Each face unique challenges, complexities, and implications. Here are a few highlights from the articles:

Insurers Are Asking ...

Workers compensation insurers have questions about how the federal Schedule I status of marijuana impacts workers compensation, if they are required to reimburse or pay for medical marijuana, and whether medical marijuana is a viable alternative to opioids for pain management and getting workers back to work sooner.

Employers and Employees Are Wondering ...

Employers are primarily focused on workplace safety and their ability to administer drug-free workplace policies. Employees wonder whether they can use medical marijuana to treat a workplace injury, and how legal marijuana use under state law may impact their jobs and workers compensation benefits. Many employers and employees have questions about how impairment is determined for medical marijuana.

Regulators and Legislators Want to Know ...

Regulators want to know the best way to protect workers, employers, and insurers in their states, and how to regulate reimbursement for medical marijuana in states where it's a permissible workers compensation treatment requiring insurer reimbursement. Legislators—both state and federal—are debating the public policy issues around marijuana legalization and dealing with implementation and enforcement issues in states that have legalized it.

What's Next?

While NCCI's "Marijuana Conversations" series focused on questions from these specific stakeholder groups, other workers compensation stakeholders—insurance agents, medical providers, and independent rating bureaus—also have questions about the increasing legalization of marijuana at the state level, including the potential impact on workers compensation and their respective roles. All certainly are paying close attention as developments unfold.

And developments continue to unfold. For example, as recently as September 13, 2017, Maine's highest court heard oral arguments in Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co., a case that is expected to address questions in Maine regarding reimbursement for medical marijuana in workers compensation. In addition, more than a dozen states are expected to consider marijuana proposals in the coming year, which may add to the number of states with either medical access or recreational marijuana access.

As state legislatures and courts continue to grapple with these issues, it is still unknown whether the federal government will act. There are currently at least 20 bills pending before Congress that address issues related to the legalization of marijuana. However, at this time, it is unclear whether any of these bills will pass and/or whether the Administration will provide guidance.

So, for now, questions remain and the conversation continues. NCCI will keep a close eye on these developing legislative and judicial actions and their potential impact on our workers compensation system.

This article is provided solely as a reference tool to be used for informational purposes only. The information in this article shall not be construed or interpreted as providing legal or any other advice. Use of this article for any purpose other than as set forth herein is strictly prohibited.