Minnesota Medicinal Marijuana & Workers’ Comp

Too many Americans are dependent on opioid painkillers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has gone so far as to declare opioid painkiller usage an epidemic. Not only are thousands of Americans dependent on these prescription drugs, but thousands are overdosing on them annually. Since 1999 deaths from overdoses have tripled. Every year 16,000 American patients lose their battle with opioid addictions. Sixteen thousand families lose loved ones.

An opioid is a painkiller that is derived from the poppy plant. This plant also provides the necessary ingredients for narcotics such as heroin and opium. Oxycodone and hydrocodone are the two most common prescription opioids; they are marketed as Percocet and Vicodin respectively. More recently, with the help of some legislative initiatives, doctors across the country have begun to seek alternative medication to assist in the opioid epidemic. Many are looking to marijuana for assistance.


Last month the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry adopted a new outlook on marijuana. The Department announced that when it comes to injured workers, marijuana will not be considered an “illegal substance.” This ruling brings Minnesota closer in conformity with states such as Colorado and California – whose legislatures have legalized the drug entirely – but distances Minnesota from federal law which considers marijuana illegal under any circumstances. As one California addiction specialist, Dr. Damon Raskin, explained, it is difficult to evaluate the statistical risks associated with marijuana as compared to opioids simply because marijuana is not approved – and therefore not evaluated – for any consumption by the United States Food and Drug Administration. However, Dr. Raskin recognized that “if there’s a choice between opiates vs. medical marijuana, I will still pick medical marijuana if that helps the patient’s pain… If we can do anything except opiates for pain, that’s ideal.”


Chronic pain is a reality for many injured workers across the state. The Department’s recent ruling means that medical marijuana can be compensated just as any other drug would be for an employee injured on the job. When an employee files a workers’ compensation claim and their doctor prescribes medical marijuana –as they would an opioid in the past – the state will not contest the prescription based on it being for marijuana. This does not mean, however, that there won’t be any dispute. The same disputes that applied to other drugs are available in this scenario. For example, the underlying question for compensation is always whether the treatment is “reasonable and necessary.” Experts advise that all physicians and patients remember alternatives that provide non-addicting treatment (anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, acupuncture, etc.).

When you have been injured on the job bear in mind that workers’ compensation is a system of insurance. This means that everyone from the doctors to the insurance companies themselves have a bottom line. While your pain is a personal matter to you and your loved ones, it is not so near and dear to those employed by the insurer. This is why having an attorney can mean the difference between proper treatment and chronic, unmanageable pain. We know your injury is personal. Contact the legal professionals at Kohlmeyer Hagen Law Office today to discuss your case.

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