In late March the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that workers’ compensation must cover the cost of medical cannabis for treatment of injuries suffered on the job.
On March 17th, 2023, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled in two separate cases that workers’ compensation should cover the cost of medical cannabis used for treatment of injuries suffered on the job (1). In both cases, the claimants were initially prescribed opioids for treating pain resulting from injuries suffered on the job, but later found cannabis more effective for treating their pain. Furthermore, in seeking compensation for their medication, both claims had been initially denied and the appeals board upheld those denials, but the Commonwealth Court’s decisions reversed the appeals boards’ decisions.
The court decreed that employers are reimbursing the patients for their medical costs, and are not being ordered to break federal law, because they are not being required to pay for the cannabis. “The General Assembly explicitly intended Commonwealth residents suffering from intractable pain to have the benefit of this therapy, and at the same time chose not to limit claimants from receiving their statutory rights,” the judges ruled (1).
“Based on its interpretation of the statutes discussed above, the court concluded that the employer’s failure to reimburse the claimant’s out-of-pocket expenses for medical marijuana is a violation of the Workers’ Compensation Act,” reads a summary of the decision for one of the cases (2). “This precedent will have immediate consequences for Pennsylvania employers and their carriers as reimbursement for medical marijuana treatment of accepted injuries will now be required in Pennsylvania when such treatment is reasonable, necessary and causally related to the acknowledged work injury.”