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Across the nation, the use of medical marijuana is rapidly becoming legalized. In Delaware, SB 17 was signed into law in 2011, making it the 16th state to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Delaware law mandates that medical marijuana may be prescribed to patients suffering from specific debilitating conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and severe pain that cannot be treated with medications or surgery.
It can only be prescribed by a doctor for use in treating symptoms such as nausea, muscle spasms, or chronic pain. Medical marijuana may be taken by smoking it, inhaling the vapors, or ingesting it in liquid extract form.
Although many state laws have changed to allow the legal use of medical marijuana, on the federal level it remains a Schedule I controlled substance. This makes the possession of marijuana a federal crime.
Since Workers’ Compensation programs usually follow federal laws, the matter of paying for medical marijuana used to treat work injuries is an area of debate, unless the state law explicitly prohibits it. A handful of states have passed such laws, but in Delaware it remains a gray area.
The consequence is that most insurers will refuse to pay for medical marijuana under Workers’ Compensation. After all, it is still illegal according to several federal bills. However, medical marijuana is being prescribed more and more often to treat pain. In many disputes, the Delaware Industrial Accident Board’s (IAB) main concern is if the medical care is reasonable and necessary.
As the nation experiences an epidemic of opioid use, addiction, and overdose deaths, Workers’ Compensation boards may be more inclined to rule that marijuana is a compensable drug.
In the summer of 2017, an employer was ordered to pay for a worker’s medical marijuana treatment after both the treating doctor and the medical expert for the defense expressed their support of the drug to treat chronic pain. The amount of the award was $22,000, or one year’s use of medical marijuana.
The IAB noted that because the Delaware Workers’ Compensation Fee Schedule does not contain guidelines for the cost and cost containment of medical marijuana, it had no basis from which to determine if the worker’s medical costs were exorbitant.
The significance of the case was that the dispute was over cost, and not about whether the treatment was reasonable and necessary. As the use of medical marijuana becomes more prevalent, it is expected that employers in Delaware may have to pay for its use in treating workers who are injured on the job.
If your Workers’ Compensation claim for medical marijuana or any other benefit has been denied, an experienced Bear Workers’ Compensation lawyer at Rhoades & Morrow can help. We will fight to get you the compensation you need to recover from your work injury. Call 302-834-8484 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation. From our offices in Bear, Wilmington, and Milford we serve injured workers throughout the state of Delaware.