On Friday, a Pennsylvania appeals court ruled that the state’s medical marijuana law does not prevent insurers from reimbursing injured workers who use medical cannabis to treat work-related injuries.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court found that the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board had made an error in supporting Firestone Tire & Rubber’s decision to deny reimbursement for medical marijuana expenses incurred by a man prescribed it for chronic pain.
Paul Sheetz, who has since passed away, had used medical cannabis to manage pain that directly resulted from a 1977 work injury and to transition away from long-term prescribed opioid use.
Implications of the Ruling for Insurers and Injured Workers
Jenifer Kaufman, the Abington-based attorney who represented the claimant’s estate, expressed enthusiasm about the court’s ruling, calling it a “game-changer” for injured workers using medical marijuana to treat severe or long-lasting injuries. The ruling implies that insurers must reimburse medical marijuana costs when the treatment is deemed “reasonable and necessary,” likely applying to serious or old injury cases where medical cannabis is the primary treatment.
Firestone argued that reimbursing medical marijuana expenses would violate federal law, as cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. However, the court ruled that reimbursement is not a federal crime, as insurers are not the ones prescribing the drug.
Medical Marijuana in PA
Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2016, allowing patients with qualifying conditions to use cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Patients must obtain a medical marijuana card, issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, to purchase and use medical cannabis products from licensed dispensaries. The program continues to expand and evolve, providing patients with a variety of medical cannabis products to suit their needs.