On October 27, 2020, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled, in Wright’s Case, that a workers compensation insurer cannot be required to reimburse a claimant for medical marijuana expenses as a necessary and reasonable medical treatment.
In its decision, the court relied on a provision of the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Act (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 94I, § 6), which states that nothing in the state medical marijuana law requires health insurance providers to reimburse any person for medical marijuana expenses. The court concluded that the law’s reimbursement limitation on health insurance providers also applies to workers compensation insurers because they, as the court found, “are plainly providing health insurance benefits.”
The court also reasoned that the reimbursement limitation avoids exposing insurers to potential prosecution under federal law, and that the risk of federal prosecution exists regardless of whether a medical marijuana patient seeks reimbursement from a private health insurance provider or a workers compensation insurer.
With this ruling, the court affirmed on different grounds a lower court’s decision by the Department of Industrial Accidents, which found that marijuana’s status as a federally illicit substance preempted any state level authority to order a workers compensation insurer to pay for a claimant’s medical marijuana expenses.
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