Medical Marijuana And Workers Compensation May Not Mix

Law Articles

If you have been injured on the job, it is not unusual to be sent for a drug screen following your injury. What is found during this drug screen can have a direct impact on whether or not your worker's compensation claim may be approved. But what happens when the drug in your system is marijuana that has been approved by your doctor for your use to address a medical condition that you have? Even if it is legal in your state, your employer may still have a right to deny your claim, and may even have grounds to dismiss you from your job for having a positive drug screen. Here are a few points you may want to consider prior to lighting up.

If It Is Legal In My State, Why Can I Get In Trouble At Work?

Over the last few years the legalization of medical marijuana has been front and center in the news and on voting ballots in many states. Currently, 24 states and Washington, DC, have approved this plant for medical purposes. This legalization varies from state to state, but most laws allow you to grow, purchase, possess, and smoke marijuana for a wide variety of medical conditions and concerns. 

Unfortunately, medical marijuana has not been approved on the federal level. Marijuana continues to be classified as a Schedule I drug, but the federal Department of Justice has given states some leeway in enforcing drug laws as they see fit, and have allowed them to create state laws surrounding its use. Because it is illegal on a federal level, this has a direct impact on your company's worker's compensation policies, as well as on their insurer's approvals.

If I Just Use Marijuana On The Weekends When I Am Off How Long Will It Remain In My System?

Even if you only use marijuana on the weekends, it does not mean that it has completely left your system by the time you report to work on Monday morning. That is because the THC, or the molecules that are being tested for, are lipolphilic or fat soluble and are stored in your body fat. Because it is stored this way, it is harder to flush from your system and remains longer than other types of recreational drugs.

How long it remains in your system is dependent on several things. Some of these include:

  • How often you use it
  • The period of time you use it over
  • Percentage of your body fat
  • Your exercise patterns
  • Stress levels
  • Your diet and more

Your occasional weekend use can usually be detected by regular drug screens that measure the carboxy-THC, or the breakdown of the marijuana, anywhere from 3 to 10 days after use. If you are a heavy user, testing may show the drug in your system for up to 10 months, even after you have ceased to use it. The levels in your system may even increase or peak on your body for days following your use.

Why Is My Employer Concerned About My Occasional Use?

Everyone who uses marijuana is affected differently. These differences are due to the amount, as well as how the drug is ingested, the person's size and body composition.  

 The drug can impact some or all of the following:

  • Short-term memory
  • Balance and coordination
  • Concentration
  • Alertness
  • Sensory perception
  • Ability to perform complex tasks
  • Reaction time and more

Depending on the type of work you do, using marijuana can affect your production, as well as put you and those around you at risk of being involved in a workplace accident. If there is an increase in the number of workplace accidents, not only does this compromise workplace safety, but it will cause an increase in the cost of the worker's compensation insurance your employer is required to have.

If you have been prescribed medical marijuana by your physician, you need to ensure that you know your employer's drug policies. While some employers may be willing to make an exception to their screening rules based on the type of work you do, there are others that do not have this luxury. Your employer's policy may require you to share with them if you are approved for medical use of the drug. Failure to report that you are using it may be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

If your worker's compensation claim has been denied due to your use of medical marijuana, you need to hire a worker's compensation attorney. They will review your case, as well as the case law in your state in an effort to get you the benefits that you deserve. For help with your claim, talk to someone at a firm like Hardee and Hardee LLP.


13 May 2016

Noni and the Accident

My name is Noni. When I was in college, I was hit by a car while crossing the street. My life was never in danger, but I did break a few bones and had a lot of huge medical bills. I was hoping I wouldn't have to get involved with an attorney, but unfortunately, it came down to that. I used a family friend who is an accident attorney to get some compensation. A few years later, I was hit while riding my bike and had to go through the same process. I suppose I'm lucky to be alive. And it's thanks to accident attorneys that I have been able to put my life back together. I started this blog as a way to let others know just how much lawyers can help you in certain situations.