Last year brought the signing of major legislation in Georgia pertaining to the use of medical marijuana. Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill that officially made it legal to treat nine different medical conditions with cannabis oil if a physician approved treatment. While no workers’ compensation claims have been made specifically related to medical marijuana, it is only a matter of time before the issue arises. Medical marijuana is a looming concern for workers’ compensation for various reasons. Atlanta workers who do qualify for medical marijuana, however, should understand that the law contains strong workplace protection language. If you are using medical marijuana and have a workplace injury, speaking to an attorney about your workers’ compensation rights is advisable.
Complications With Marijuana and Workers’ CompensationWhile medical marijuana is legal in Georgia and many other states, it is still illegal against federal laws. This contradiction between federal and state laws presents an interesting challenge for the workers’ compensation system and employers. There are two main points employers are considering when dealing with medical marijuana:
- Employee Use of Marijuana Affecting Production – Certain employers may be primarily concerned with their designation as a drug-free workplace and if “intoxication defense” will play a part in claims. Georgia is only one of fourteen states that provide discounts on workers’ compensation insurance for employers who have certified their workplace as drug-free.
- Medical Providers Prescribing Marijuana as Treatment – The overuse of prescription medications for pain, particularly opioids, is already a hot topic in workers’ compensation. With legalization of medical marijuana, the drug may be prescribed to injured workers as an alternative painkiller meaning that it would be included as part of the medical benefits assigned under workers’ compensation.