Oklahoma Ruling Could Impact Workers’ Comp Cases Involving Med Pot

December 3, 2018

A recent Oklahoma court ruling that permits an injured worker to receive compensation benefits with a positive drug test could set a precedent for such cases at a time when medical marijuana may soon be widely available in the state.

The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals ruled on Nov. 16 that “the presence of an intoxicating substance in the blood does not automatically mean that person is intoxicated,” The Oklahoman reported. The decision comes as more than 13,000 residents have received medical marijuana licenses since June.

The case stemmed from a 2017 accident at Berry Plastics Corp. Employee Dillon Rose’s hand was crushed when a co-worker activated a machine Rose was trying to fix. A drug test after the accident showed that Rose had recently smoked marijuana, which called into question whether the accident was Rose’s fault.

Rose’s co-workers said he didn’t appear impaired while on the job, and Rose told an administrative law judge that he was no longer affected by the marijuana that he had smoked the night before.

The judge approved Rose’s worker’s compensation claim, citing a lack of evidence from Berry Plastics that Rose was impaired by drugs. The Oklahoma Workers Compensation Commission reversed the ruling, calling Rose’s testimony “self-serving.”

Rose appealed the commission’s decision to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, which said that the commission went beyond its duty.

“The critical focus is not whether an intoxicating substance was present in the worker’s system, but rather whether there was a causal connection between the accident and a state of intoxication, from whatever source,” the court said.

Donald Bullard, Berry Plastics’ attorney, said the company hasn’t decided if it will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

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