Minnesota allows medical marijuana for injured workers

Minnesota has recently ruled that medical marijuana for pain relief can be covered under workers’ compensation.

Nearly half of the nation's states have now passed legislation legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Minnesota is among those states. However, as federal law still bans medical marijuana, some issues can arise including whether or not workers' compensation benefits can be expanded to include the cost of medicinal marijuana.

According to Business Insurance, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry recently released a ruling that explicitly includes coverage for marijuana for medical use for injuries or illnesses covered under workers' compensation claims. Some medical experts believe that chronic pain associated with muscular or nerve conditions can be effectively treated with marijuana. They claim that the use of marijuana is safer than the use of opioid drugs over a long time. Marijuana is also less expensive than other pain medications.

A look at what workers' compensation covers

The workers' compensation law provides financial assistance to people who are injured or become ill due to a work-related situation. Specific benefits include the following:

  • Employees can have medical care that is deemed necessary or reasonable paid for by workers' compensation.
  • Lost income after an initial three-day waiting period can be recouped up to certain amounts.
  • Job retraining or rehabilitation can be provided for people unable to resume their previous positions but still able to work in different capacities.
  • Permanent disabilities that prevent future employment.
  • In the event that an employee dies due to a job-related illness or injury, surviving family members may be eligible for death benefits.

For any approved claim, benefits are to begin within two weeks of notice that benefits are owed.

What type of medical care is covered?

Services provided by alternative healthcare providers who are not licensed may not be covered. Medications are generally covered but insurers can stipulate which pharmacies must be used as long as they are within a 15-mile radius of an employee's home. Mileage reimbursement is allowed for costs associated with getting to and from medical appointments.

Non-emergency hospitalizations or surgeries require prior approval from the insurance company in order to be covered.

How can employees get the benefits they need?

Making a workers' compensation claim after a serious injury or illness is an important way of preventing potentially drastic financial consequences. Talking to an attorney to get help with these claims is recommended.