Sacramento, CA - NCCI's Court Case Update provides a look at some of the cases and decisions monitored by NCCI's Legal Division that may impact workers compensation across the states. This August 2019 edition contains updated information on cases previously introduced and presents new cases and decisions.
Legalization of marijuana is an ongoing area of broad interest at the state and federal levels.
In the 2019 state legislative sessions, legislatures stayed the course in taking up issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana. State courts are also engaged in reviewing marijuana-related issues in workers compensation, as well as the workplace.
In Oklahoma the case of Rose v. Berry Plastics Corp. is on appeal to the state supreme court; the court of appeals concluded that the presence of THC in an employee's blood after a workplace accident does not automatically mean that the employee was intoxicated so as to deny workers compensation benefits.
In the Florida case of Jones v. Grace Health Center, a workers compensation judge (JCC) found that Florida's medical marijuana statute prohibits reimbursement under workers compensation, and that requiring employers and insurers to pay for a worker's medical marijuana would violate the federal Controlled Substances Act. The JCC also determined that employers and insurers should not be required to pay for a worker's medical evaluation to obtain medical marijuana because the cost of the evaluation would be part and parcel of the cost of obtaining marijuana. The case has been appealed to Florida's First District Court of Appeal.
In New Jersey the case of Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc., the New Jersey Supreme Court is expected to review the state's medical marijuana law to determine whether a worker - who was a state-authorized medical marijuana user - can sue his former employer for violation of a state antidiscrimination law, when the employer terminated the worker for a drug test that was positive for marijuana metabolites.
At the federal level, pending proposals seek to decriminalize marijuana (S1552), allow state regulation without federal interference (HR2093), and protect financial institutions and insurance companies that provide services for legitimate cannabis businesses (HR1595).
In a recent development, the federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Washington et al. v. Barr, declined to consider a constitutional challenge to the inclusion of marijuana as a controlled substance, ruling that plaintiffs should exhaust their administrative remedies before suing in court.