The “green wave” (a term used to describe the acceptance and legalization of cannabis) is spreading across the country, including right here in Arizona. More and more states are allowing patients who use medicinal cannabis for various work-related illnesses and injuries to be reimbursed by their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance (WCI).
Furthermore, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researchers took a look at the various rules and regulations in the states that allow for the use of medical cannabis.
There are currently 36 states that permit cannabis to be used as medicine. Of those, 6 states (Connecticut, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York) specifically note that medical cannabis patients are eligible for reimbursement from workers’ compensation.
Comparatively, there are 6 other states that specifically note that workers’ compensation cannot reimburse patients for any medical cannabis products. These states include Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio and Washington.
All other states (including Arizona) currently have no law on the books or there are provisions that state that insurers aren’t required to reimburse employees if they choose to use cannabis to treat their injuries.
While many states don’t have laws on the books yet, experts suggest that this is only the beginning for states allowing for workers’ compensation insurance to reimburse for medical cannabis use. It is highly likely that more states will petition their state legislators to push for reimbursement in the coming years.
Cannabis and workers’ compensation laws
Until the federal government addresses legislation legalizing the use of marijuana, there will continue to be a back and forth regarding the legal status of cannabis on the state level. As it stands, cannabis is federally illegal; however, in 2020, Arizona voters passed Proposition 207, effectively legalizing marijuana across the state for recreational use.
These conflicting statuses make the laws a bit ambiguous regarding a failed drug test and workers’ compensation claims denials. Generally, if a worker is injured on the job, they’re required to submit to a drug test. Failing this test would often lead to a denial of your claim unless it can be proven that the accident wasn’t caused by the worker being impaired.
Further complicating things is that Arizona is a no-fault system, which means that regardless of what caused the injury, the worker is covered by workers’ compensation. While those under the influence of drugs and alcohol are typically excluded from this protection, when legal marijuana is used as medicine to help treat or manage a work injury, this can make things murky.
Regardless of the reason, if you were denied workers’ compensation benefits then you should seek help and advice from an experienced attorney to get you the benefits you deserve. Don’t stress yourself further worrying about your finances when your main concern should be your recovery.