One of the most frequent arguments put forth in favor of legalizing medical use of marijuana is the drug’s use to relieve chronic pain. The New Jersey Supreme Court has now added its backing to this argument by affirming a decision of the state’s intermediate court of appeals.
A New Jersey construction worker suffered job-related injury, and his physician prescribed marijuana as a treatment for the man’s chronic pain. The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Commission ordered the employer’s insurer to pay the costs of this treatment for as long as they may be necessary.
The employer appealed this order to the Appellate Division of the State Superior Court. The appellate division affirmed the order of the Workers’ Compensation Commission. The employer then appealed to the state supreme court.
The Supreme Court’s decision
The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the appellate division by rejecting each of the employer’s arguments. The employer first contended that the Jew Jersey Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act (“Compassionate Use Act”) was preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act(“CSA”). The court rejected this argument because it held that the narrow exception for medical use of marijuana in the CSA because that exception applies only to government medical assistance programs and private health insurers and not to workers’ compensation insurers.
The employer next argued that the marijuana prescription was not reimbursable as a reasonable and necessary medical treatment. The court found that the worker had presented sufficient credible evidence that marijuana was “reasonable and necessary” medical care under the state’s workers’ compensation scheme.
Finally, the court held that recent action by Congress amounted to suspending the application of the CSA to New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Act.
Perhaps the Supreme Court’s most important holding was its conclusion that marijuana constitutes, under proper circumstances, reasonable and necessary care for chronic pain. Not every injured worker who suffers from chronic pain will be eligible for reimbursement for the costs of medical marijuana, but this case present a significant ray of hope to anyone suffering from chronic pain from a work-related injury.
Anyone who may want to seek reimbursement for medical marijuana costs may wish to consult and experienced workers’ compensation attorney for advice on how to apply for such reimbursement and for assistance with an appeal if the application should be denied.