U.S. Solicitor General Asked to Take Stance on Medicinal Marijuana for Workers’ Compensation Cases
March 10, 2022
Harrisburg, PA – On February 22, 2022, the US Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General of the United States to prepare a Brief to the Court on the issue of whether it is a violation of the Federal Controlled Substance Act (C.S.A.) for a workers’ compensation carrier to pay for the cost of an injured worker’s medicinal marijuana. Currently pending before the US Supreme Court is a Petition for Certiorari from a Decision of the Minnesota Supreme Court. In that case, the Supreme Court of Minnesota concluded that it was a violation of the C.S.A. for a carrier to reimburse the injured worker for the cost of the medical marijuana. Specifically, the Court stated that the federal prohibition pre-empted any state law under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.
There is a conflict in different jurisdictions across the country. For example, courts in New Jersey and New Hampshire have found there is no conflict with federal law, while courts in Maine and Minnesota have held that it is a violation of the federal law. The Supreme Court in Maine and Minnesota found that reimbursing the employee for the cost of the medicinal marijuana placed the carrier in direct violation of the CSA as it required them to aid and abet in the commission of a federal crime. By contrast, the Supreme Court of New Jersey concluded that there was no conflict of federal law. The New Jersey court found that in order to violate the Controlled Substances Act, one must possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana. In the context of reimbursement for workers’ compensation purposes, the carrier did none of those things and simply reimbursed for the cost after the fact. Furthermore, the New Jersey court noted that the Department of Justice has essentially suspended enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act with regard to medicinal marijuana enforcement.
Until now, the Executive Branch of the federal government has avoided the issue related to state marijuana legalization and the federal conflict. Obviously, if the Supreme Court were to hear this case, the decision will impact many of the recent developments related to medicinal marijuana and its relationship and purpose in workers’ compensation claims.
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