Marijuana and the Workplace

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’ Compensation

  While 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.  
    Workers should understand that while medical marijuana has been legalized in Georgia, employers are not obligated to accommodate workers under the influence. In fact, the law contains strong workplace protection language that states the employer does not need to permit the consumption and cannot prevent the workplace from having a zero tolerance policy.  

Employer Actions Relating to Medical Marijuana

To cope with the new legislation and rapid legalization of the drug, employers need to develop a clear drug policy that is consistent and constantly reevaluated to meet the standards set by both state and federal laws.   If a worker is prescribed medical marijuana as part of their treatment plan for an injured worker, employers should follow the discretion of the state workers’ compensation board. While research is ongoing on the benefits, paying for medical marijuana through workers’ compensation is still a murky area of the law.  

Need Workers’ Compensation?

  It is now legal in the state of Georgia to treat certain health conditions with medical marijuana. If you are a worker who has been legally prescribed medical marijuana as a part of a treatment plan, you may wish to consult with a workers’ compensation attorney to get clarification regarding your rights. Call Workers Compensation Lawyers to consult with an experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney about possible repercussions in the workplace and whether you would qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.    ]]>