With COVID-19 on the rise across the nation, Florida ranks high for coronavirus related workers’ compensation insurance claims. Next to the pandemic, the use of medical marijuana (even through vaping) is another topic of concern for the Sunshine State.
Since Senate Bill 182 legalized medical marijuana on March 18, 2019, more than 300,000 Floridians qualified for a medical marijuana card. With several people now using medical marijuana for treatment, its use is beginning to affect the workplace.
How medical marijuana use affects the Florida workplace
Even though medical marijuana is legal in Florida (but not according to federal laws), just recently, a Florida high school official was fired for using prescribed medical marijuana. The Marine Corps veteran was using the drug to treat PTSD.
Seeing how a person can be fired for using medical marijuana, if an employee who consumes medical marijuana experiences an injury on-the-job, can that employee be fired as well?
Or will Florida workers’ compensation insurance reimburse the injured worker for medical marijuana use to control chronic pain?
A New Mexico appellate court judge ruled that a company must pay for medical marijuana requested by employees who have job-related injuries that leave them with a 99% permanent partial disability and chronic pain.
So, what’s Florida’s take on this issue?
What is Florida’s legal definition of medical marijuana?
Plainly put, Florida lawmakers say marijuana is marijuana, whether medicinal or recreational. What makes medical marijuana stand out though is the use of it and its definition.
Florida Statute 381.986 defines marijuana as, “All parts of any plant of the Cannabis plant, whether growing or not.”
Medical marijuana is considered “medical” when it is dispensed from a medical marijuana treatment center for medical use by a “qualified patient” or resident of Florida whose name has been added to the medical marijuana use registry by a qualified physician.
In addition to marijuana itself, marijuana delivery devices can be deemed permitted for medical use.
Qualifying health conditions for Florida medical marijuana treatment
Certain health conditions will qualify a person to receive marijuana or a marijuana delivery device for medical use in Florida.
These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Non-cancerous chronic pain
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
- Multiple sclerosis
For a complete list of qualifying health conditions for medical marijuana, visit Florida’s Premier Medical Cannabis Clinic, CannaMD.
What does Florida workers’ comp law say about medical marijuana reimbursement?
Florida Statute 381.986(15)(f) states that marijuana is not reimbursable under Chapter 400 of Public Health, which pertains to nursing homes and related health care facilities.
And Florida Statute 440.13 talks about medical treatment and the duties of employers. This law requires employers or insurance carriers to authorize reasonable and necessary care and treatment that is related to the industrial accident.
Although there is no mention of marijuana not being reimbursable in any other reference to Florida workers’ compensation laws, a recent Florida court ruling suggests that companies and workers’ compensation insurers are not obligated to pay injured workers for medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana worker’s comp reimbursement in the case of Jones v. Grace Healthcare
This matter involved an injured worker who was seeking an evaluation with a qualified physician in order to obtain medical marijuana. The worker was not seeking medical marijuana on his own. The injured worker’s treating physician referred the worker to another physician for the evaluation.
The issue ended with the Judges of Compensation Claims (JCC) determining that medical marijuana was reasonably and medically necessary, and related to the industrial accident.
However, the judges decided that the employer or the insurance carrier was not required to pay for medical marijuana for the injured worker, due to the plain language of the law.
Unfortunately, Florida’s laws conflict with each other and the issue surrounding reimbursement for medical marijuana in Florida’s courts is still new.
As more and more people use the drug for various reasons and it becomes more widespread in the nation, hopefully the courts will begin to have clear direction on whether injured workers can obtain workers’ compensation medical benefits in Florida for medical marijuana use.
Get the benefits you deserve with a Florida workers’ comp lawyer
Did you suffer an injury while working in Orlando, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, or any other part of South Florida? Don’t let the insurance company deny your claim. Our experienced Florida workers’ compensation attorneys will review the ins and outs of your case, create legal strategies in your favor, and walk you through the entire workers’ compensation claims process.