How Medical Marijuana Impacts Workers’ Comp Cases in PA

An increasing number of states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. It’s especially helpful for those who have chronic pain and hope to avoid becoming addicted to painkillers. However, the use of marijuana as an approved treatment has only recently been allowed as part of worker’s compensation benefits.

Although there is a paradox that your injury may not be covered by your workers’ comp program if you were using the drug at the time, you may be surprised to learn how medical marijuana impacts workers’ comp cases in Pennsylvania. Our workers’ compensation attorneys can help you understand how the law has changed recently to allow coverage for this substance as a medication during your recovery. 

When Did Medical Marijuana Get Approved Under Workers’ Comp in Pennsylvania?

In May 2016, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania approved the Medical Marijuana Act (MMA), allowing patients to use medical marijuana for pain and anxiety management when they have certain medical conditions. These include Parkinson’s disease, ALS, or cancer. However, employers can still discipline workers who are under the influence of marijuana while working, and employers do not have to make any accommodations to allow employees to use the drug on their premises.

Interestingly, a recent court ruling in May 2023 added clarity to this law regarding the use of medical marijuana as a treatment during a workers’ compensation case. The original plaintiff in the case used medical marijuana to wean himself off opioids, to which he had become addicted after suffering a work injury in 1977. The ruling now allows employees to claim the cost of medical marijuana as part of their related medical expenses in their workers’ compensation cases.

So, the paradox is that you can’t use medical marijuana while working, and you could be denied workers’ comp benefits if a drug test after your injury shows you have the drug in your system. Yet, you can submit the purchase of prescribed medical marijuana as a legitimate expense in your workers’ comp claim. Complexities like this are one of the reasons you may need to speak with an experienced and educated workers’ comp lawyer to avoid mistakes.

Can You Get a Medical Marijuana Card if You’re on Workers’ Comp in Pennsylvania? 

It’s possible to get a medical marijuana card when you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits. However, even with the recent ruling in favor of allowing coverage of the cost, you need to ensure you follow every rule to support your case. If the insurance company wants to push back or take a long time to review the expense, you may need legal assistance to ensure your costs are approved.

The first step is obtaining a medical marijuana card. This requires medical clearance through the sworn testimony of a doctor who has been approved by the state. The Pennsylvania Department of Health manages the Medical Marijuana Program. This program is responsible for training doctors so they are able to provide medical clearance.

Once you have the clearance, you can receive an identification card from your physician enabling you to get your prescriptions filled. You should keep all your receipts, just as with any other medical expenses so that you can submit them for reimbursement in your workers’ comp claim. Your attorney can guide you through filing these bills.

Will My Pennsylvania Workers’ Comp Pay for My Treatment With Medical Marijuana?

As long as you have followed the rules regarding reporting your injury on time, did not engage in any behavior that might deny your workers’ comp claim, and have gotten a medical marijuana card, you should have no issue receiving payment. Again, it can get complicated, but working with a skilled workers’ comp attorney can give you the information and confidence you need to successfully obtain benefits for medical marijuana use as part of your treatment.

To support your request, you’ll need to include a copy of your card, your doctor’s medical clearance, and any other documentation clearly indicating the medical necessity of using marijuana for your recovery. You will also need to submit receipts for your purchases. Any expenses related to your treatment should be filed using the Workers’ Compensation Medical Report Form and the CMS-1500 form for dispensed pharmaceuticals.

Be sure that you document your bills related to medical marijuana as a required medication. Do this for as long as needed until your doctor determines you have reached your maximum medical improvement. Once you have fully recovered and returned to work, remember that you will once again be subject to Pennsylvania’s laws allowing employers to randomly test employees for the use of illegal substances.

Learn More About Workers’ Compensation and Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania Today

Although Pennsylvania has approved the use of marijuana for managing pain in certain situations, it still remains illegal on a federal level and for recreational use within the Commonwealth. This means you must walk a fine line to reap the benefits of this medication when you are injured on the job. It’s easy to make a mistake and end up needing the drug but being unable to seek reimbursement for valid treatment through workers’ compensation.

To understand more about this issue and workers’ compensation claims in general, schedule a free case evaluation with an accomplished attorney at Krasno, Krasno & Onwudinjo. Our law firm is founded on the belief that workers who are injured on the job should have access to the benefits they need without roadblocks and headaches. We are dedicated to helping employees provide for their families while focusing on their physical, emotional, and financial recovery.

For over 85 years, our firm has been standing beside clients just like you to guide you through challenging times. Meet with us so we can listen to your story and begin to tailor a strategy for your needs. We will investigate your claim, collect the relevant material, and ensure you get the benefits and compensation you deserve. Contact us through our online form to schedule your free consultation with a top-notch workers’ compensation lawyer today. 

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