Hashish used to deal with injured staff appears nearer to acceptance – business insurance

Recent litigation and legislative proposals in some eastern states may have opened the door to more widespread use of cannabis to treat injured workers, experts say.

Cases heard in courts in New York, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey, and New Hampshire have helped advance cannabis as a medical treatment in the eyes of law and insurance, they say.

“For a long time, workers' compensation did not see medical marijuana as a treatment option. But we've seen a lot of litigation in the past few years, and the interesting thing about these cases is that they all come back to the issue of federal preemption, ”said Jeremy Buchalski, a New York-based partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP.

He spoke at the Business Insurance 2021 Virtual Cannabis & Hemp Conference last week.

While cannabis is still legally regulated as a List 1 substance, meaning it has no medicinal value, state courts have ruled whether it can be reimbursed as medical treatment in compensation cases.

In April a New York appeals court ruled on the Quigley v. Village of East Aurora announced that a disability insurance company must reimburse a disabled police officer for his medical marijuana.

New York led cannabis reform year-round, announcing an updated drug list and the planned launch of a web-based claims portal, OnBoard. The new form requires medical marijuana to be a drug with prior approval, said Ronald Mazariegos, executive vendor manager at Arrowpoint Capital.

“This legitimizes cannabis as medicine because what the New York Chamber of Labor says is that it has to go through the same pre-approval process as spinal surgery, like Oxycontin, like physical therapy, and it's treated like any other type of medicine. “Said Mark Pew, director of The RxProfessor LLC. "It's the only state that has gone this far, and I think this will be a model that other states will look at."

Laws pending in New York, New Jersey and Maryland would require workers' compensation insurers to treat medical marijuana as a prescription and reimburse the injured worker.

"From our point of view, it is difficult to measure or get information about what drugs are being filled," said Mr Mazariegos. "Hopefully one day we will see a better bridge of understanding between the payer and the doctor to get the recommended and sought-after treatment that we all want."

This year also saw the impact of the latest federal legislation, said Mr Buchalski. The 2018 Farm Bill "essentially" legalized hemp, which allowed the CBD market to explode on the shelves.

CBD is also gaining traction as an alternative therapy in pain management, said Dr. Carlos Giron, founder of the Pain Institute of Georgia in Macon, which primarily treats injured workers. CBD is "a perfect fit," he said.

"It has become part of my toolkit to reduce opioids so much that we have achieved over 65% opioid reductions in my practice in the past seven to eight years," said Dr. Giron.

CBD is not covered by workers' compensation insurance.

"Still, patients have come out of their own pockets to do this themselves and have had some very good results," said Dr. Giron, "doing this for the benefit of the workers' computing system, for the benefit of society and" improving their functional status. "

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