Will The Legalization of Medical Marijuana Affect Workers’ Comp?
While medical marijuana is legal in many states, serious issues still remain regarding its positive and long-term effects on medical treatment, workers’ compensation insurance, and the workplace. Also, it is still a contentious topic, especially in the workers’ compensation insurance landscape in Florida.
Understanding The Drug-Free Workplace
When it comes to ensuring that the workplace remains drug and alcohol-free, the vast majority of employers have a zero-tolerance policy requiring their employers to submit to regular drug and alcohol testing. But considering that medical marijuana is legal in Florida, if an employee gets injured in the workplace, takes medical marijuana, and then tests positive for marijuana, will they be able to claim workers’ compensation insurance benefits?
Unfortunately, yes. Under the law, employers have the right to implement company policies against marijuana use and impairment in the workplace, which means that they might try to deny a workers’ comp claim by alleging that the employee was high on marijuana when the workplace accident occurred. In this case, the employee might not be able to claim lost wages if they can’t work because they are recovering from their injury.
Likewise, the employer’s workers’ comp insurance provider could argue that the employee should cover their own medical expenses because they were high on marijuana when they got injured. In addition, even if you have a qualified patient ID card, using marijuana at work is not technically allowed, and employers have all the right to not only prohibit the use of medical marijuana in the workplace but to fire those who go to work when they’re medicated.
The problem is that since marijuana could remain in the bloodstream for quite some time, an injured employee might test positive for it, even if it’s been a couple of days or weeks since they used medical marijuana. This could negatively impact how much, or even if, the employee could collect workers’ comp benefits.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance Does Not Reimburse Medical Marijuana
Florida expressly prohibits medical marijuana reimbursement from their workers’ compensation insurance system. Under the law, employers are likewise free to enforce drug-free workplaces, and there’s no cause of action against wrongful discrimination or discharge with regards to the use of medical marijuana. Put simply, this means that you cannot file a claim against your employer if you were fired for utilizing medical marijuana.
Although there have been strong efforts to find legal pathways for updated marijuana policies in the workplace and marijuana laws in general, all proposals have been scrapped. With conflicting federal and state laws and regulations, it is usually up to the court to decide, on a case-to-case basis, whether medical marijuana can be reimbursed under workers’ compensation insurance.
Speak to a West Palm Beach Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
So while medical marijuana is completely legal in Florida, unless lawmakers update the policies on its use in the workplace, especially with regards to workers’ compensation benefits, using medical marijuana might not be a good idea.
If you use medical marijuana legally and suffer an injury while working, discuss your case with the West Palm Beach workers’ compensation lawyer of Rosenthal, Levy, Simon & Sosa. Give us a call at 866-640-7117 or contact us online for your free case evaluation.
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