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Marijuana and workers’ comp in 2018

Marijuana is a “hot-button” issue for 2018 in workers’ comp, according to Property Casualty 360, which frames the issue around the idea of a “potentially impaired workforce.”

We should ignore some of the anti-marijuana hysteria that warns of a tremendous influx of employees all high and impaired on the job – considering that employees may use marijuana legally to treat qualifying medical conditions – but it’s safe to say that marijuana will play a role in the context of on-the-job injuries and workers’ comp litigation.

Employers and insurers, in other words, may defend some claims on the basis that the injured employee is alleged to have been under the influence of marijuana while working, as against company policy.

But isn’t marijuana legal in Connecticut?

Yes and no.

Per the Marijuana Policy Project, Connecticut hasn’t yet followed in the footsteps of California and Colorado (and the growing list of other states) that have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, though Connecticut lawmakers did broaden the scope of the state’s medical marijuana program in 2016.

The Dept. of Consumer Protection approved three new dispensaries and added six medical conditions to the government-approved list of qualifying conditions – evidence of marijuana’s growing legitimacy in healthcare treatment, in contrast to its DEA classification as a Schedule I drug with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

You couldn’t find a starker contrast.

One of the biggest gray areas in law

On one hand, Connecticut workers are legally justified in treating some health conditions with the use of medical marijuana. On the other, the federal government, on paper at least, still considers marijuana as dangerous as meth and heroin, even as the “laboratories of democracy” – the states – continue to experiment with decriminalization and legalization.

This contrast may complicate the law of workers’ compensation and many other areas of law in the months and years to come, as employers come to grips with the new reality.

Call Cousins, Desrosiers & Morizio, P.C.

Despite this significant gray area, Connecticut workers’ comp law gives all employees certain rights and protections in the event of an on-the-job accident or injury. To discuss your case with us, call 475-338-3505.

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