NJ employers can be ordered to pay for medical weed, Supreme Court says
TRENTON — Medical marijuana advocates have notched another courtroom victory, as the state’s highest court has ruled that employers can be ordered to pay for prescribed pot stemming from a work-related accident.
The state Supreme Court unanimously upheld an appellate decision that medical marijuana was a “reasonable and necessary” form of treatment for injuries, despite the fact that marijuana use remains against federal laws.
The court found that private employers are not exempt from such workers’ compensation cases.
Vincent Hager suffered a serious back injury in 2001 while working for M&K Construction. A cement truck incident threw him to the ground, according to court documents.
He underwent multiple surgeries and wound up taking prescription painkillers for the next decade and a half.
In 2016, a doctor enrolled Hager in the state’s medical marijuana program, as both pain management and to wean him off of opioids, according to a court syllabus released on Tuesday.
Hager stopped using the painkillers, which had been causing “debilitating” side effects, after about a month of treatment with marijuana, according to testimony, but it was an expensive switch.
Two ounces of medical marijuana — the maximum allowed under the state’s program — cost Hager more than $600 each month, so he filed a Worker’s Compensation claim against M&K.
A judge ruled in favor of Hager and ordered the construction company to pay for the monthly pot, which they promptly appealed.
The company had argued that paying for medical marijuana would violate federal law, as it’s not recognized as a valid form of treatment beyond the state level.
There are more than 100,000 patients enrolled in the state’s Medical Marijuana Program.
As of mid-April, there were 15 marijuana dispensaries, as two operators licensed in-state each opened an additional location this spring.