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September 12, 2017

High court takes up medical marijuana case with workers' comp implications

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Marijuana growing at Wellness Connection of Maine for use in medical treatments. In a case with potential precedent-setting implications for Maine businesses, the state's highest court is taking up a case involving the question of whether state law requires workers' compensation insurance to pay for a former Madawaska mill worker's medical marijuana expenses.

In a case with potential precedent-setting implications for Maine businesses, the state's highest court is taking up a case involving the question of whether state law requires workers' compensation insurance to pay for a former Madawaska mill worker's medical marijuana expenses.

The Bangor Daily News reported that the Maine Supreme Judicial Court is set to hear arguments in the case involving a 58-year-old Madawaska man who in 2015 sought reimbursement for medical marijuana prescribed for back pain stemming from a back injury in 1989 when he was working at what is now Twin Rivers Paper Co.

The newspaper reported that in 2015 the Maine Workers' Compensation Board ordered a third-party company that administers Twin Rivers' insurance plan to reimburse the man for medical marijuana costs that his lawyer says were as much as 80% lower than the cost of opioid-based prescription painkillers.

Attorneys for the mill and third-party company appealed the decision, stating that an insurer can't be ordered to pay for marijuana since it is illegal under federal law, which could put insurance companies at risk of federal prosecution for reimbursing people for purchasing a drug deemed illegal by the U.S. government if not the state of Maine.

The Madawaska man's lawyer argued that medical marijuana would be covered under a clause in the state's workers' compensation law specifying that workers injured on the job are entitled to "reasonable and proper medical, surgical and hospital services, nursing, medicines, and mechanical, surgical aids, as needed, paid for by the employer."

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