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(m)Power Podcast: Medical Marijuana and Workers’ Comp

Mitchell’s Chief Clinical Officer, Mitch Freeman, discusses medical marijuana in the United States and its implications on workers’ compensation.

In our third installment of the (m)Power Podcast series, we expand upon our recent whitepaper, “High Time for Change? Impact and Considerations for Medical Marijuana.” Learn more about what marijuana is, how it relates to workers’ compensation and how the recent memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions might impact the future of marijuana research and legalization in the United States.

Summary

  • Medical marijuana utilizes the whole or parts of the marijuana plant to provide medical relief. Typically accepted ailments include glaucoma, cancer, seizures and chronic pain. Medical marijuana typically does not contain THC, which is the main component that causes a “high.”
  • State laws vary greatly. For instance, twenty-nine states plus DC have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and eight states have additionally legalized recreational marijuana. However, the drug is still illegal federally, which creates confusion and difficulty in standardizing the drug.
  • In workers’ compensation, marijuana may be effective in helping to treat chronic pain. Although there is a lack of research to prove the efficacy of the drug, many are considering marijuana as an alternative to opioids.
  • Some states require reimbursement for medical marijuana, while others specifically say that insurers are not required to reimburse. Furthermore, some states have seen recent court cases ruling in favor of reimbursement, while others have ruled against reimbursing.
  • The future of medical marijuana in the United States may see widespread legalization and standardization of the drug. As more research is conducted and we begin to understand more about the drug, we may see greater acceptance.
  • A memo released by Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the beginning of January creates complication for states that have decriminalized medical marijuana. This memo retracts a previous memo that instructed the Department of Justice to turn somewhat of a blind eye to state legalization.
  • However, the Sessions Memo will most likely not have a large impact on workers’ compensation in relation to medical marijuana reimbursement. Freeman suggests this is because insurers typically pay the patient directly instead of reimbursing the dispensary.

For more information about specific state laws, visit our interactive map.

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