NCCI Examines Employee, Legislator and Regulator Concerns About Marijuana

Two more articles released by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) examine the many questions employees, legislators and regulators have regarding marijuana use in the workplace.

“The Marijuana Conversation: Questions Employees Are Asking” article is the third in a five-part series examining the issues surrounding the growing impact of legalizing marijuana on workers’ compensation stakeholders.

As medical marijuana continues to be legalized in states across the nation, employees are beginning to question whether they can use medical marijuana to treat an injury covered by workers’ compensation. The answer isn’t clear cut, according to the NCCI. While medical marijuana has been used to treat glaucoma, cancer and seizures, there isn’t enough research to evaluate whether it is a safe alternative to opioids for treating severe or chronic pain. Some states allow medical marijuana to treat workplace injuries, while others do not.

Another concern for workers is in states that allow recreational marijuana use. According to the NCCI, they want to know whether there will be any repercussions if they choose to use marijuana outside of work hours.

Employees wonder how marijuana impairment will be defined and whether the use of marijuana will preclude them from obtaining workers’ comp benefits in the case of an injury.

The fourth article released last week, “The Marijuana Conversation: Questions Regulators and Legislators Are Asking”, discusses four key regulator and legislator concerns.

The first concern of state insurance and labor departments, according to the NCCI, is protecting workers and promoting safe workplaces. Questions they face include the following:

  1. Could an employee’s legal use of medical or recreational marijuana impact workplace safety?
  2. Are workers who legally use medical marijuana less likely to report injuries if their employer has a drug-free workplace policy?
  3. What if workers are concerned about losing their workers’ compensation benefits if they test positive for marijuana at the time of injury?
  4. What impact does all of this have on employers and insurers in the state?

Another concern is monitoring and regulating medical marijuana reimbursement. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, it can’t be assigned a National Drug Code, which prohibits states from including it within their prescription drug monitoring programs. That makes tracking its use much more difficult. Reimbursing for medical marijuana treatment under workers’ comp also raises questions on how the process should work. NCCI notes only New Mexico has established a maximum reimbursement amount for medical marijuana in its workers’ comp fee schedule.

Legislators want to know if Congress is considering legislation on marijuana use and whether banking and tax reforms will be addressed. In addition, they wonder if the government will enforce federal law against the states that legalized marijuana use.

Read the first two articles in the series:

Series of Articles by NCCI Examines Marijuana and the Workers’ Comp System
NCCI: Employers Have Many Questions When it Comes to Pot