As states continue to legalize medical marijuana, courts handling workers’ compensation cases have to consider whether it can be covered as medical treatment. As Georgia expanded its medical marijuana program last year, this issue could soon arise in Georgia workers’ compensation cases.
In a recent case, the claimant sustained a back injury while he was working at a paper mill in the 1980s. His employer agreed to place the claimant on total disability. He continued to suffer from chronic pain, and in January 2012 the claimant was issued a certification to use medical marijuana for his back pain. He subsequently filed a petition seeking payment from his employer for the cost of the medical marijuana. The employer argued that an order requiring it to pay for the medical marijuana was barred by the federal Controlled Substances Act.
Maine’s Supreme Court considered the issue for the first time in the state. The majority decided that there was a conflict between federal and state law, and that in the circumstances presented in that case, the federal Controlled Substances Act preempted the state law. Maine’s Medical Use of Marijuana Act allows qualifying patient to possess a certain amount of marijuana for personal use.