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Jerome, Gibson, Stewart, Stevenson, Engle & Runbeck, P.C.
Helping Injured Workers In Arizona Since 1973

Current confusion of medical marijuana and workers' compensation

The changing laws regarding medical -- and in some states, recreational -- marijuana use may have Arizona workers and employers alike wondering how it could potentially affect workplace safety and workers' comp. Most of the time, workers' compensation laws allow for the denial of benefits when an employee's injury is attributable to alcohol or drug use. However, Arizona does have reasonable accommodation provisions and anti-discrimination laws that could impact an employer's ability to enforce such policies when it comes to medically prescribed marijuana.

Most employers have drug-free workplace policies, but these policies do not extend to medications described by physicians. In addition, while some states allow benefit reduction or denial if drug use can be proven, the question of what constitutes worker impairment from medical marijuana is still uncertain. Adding to the confusion is the fact that marijuana can remain in a user's system for a period of time, making it difficult to determine whether the worker was actually impaired at the time of injury.

Employers may be further concerned over whether and how a worker's legal use of medical marijuana may be allowable in the workplace. To date, Arizona has not placed any restrictions on drug-free workplace policies. Injured employees, on the other hand, may be worrying about the implications of medical marijuana used to treat work-related illnesses or injuries.

Further confusing the issue, marijuana remains illegal at a federal level, though the government has not yet enforced laws in Arizona and other states where its usage has been legalized. In another state, a recent court ruling allowed an employee who tested positive for marijuana usage to proceed with a disability discrimination claim against her employer. With such complex laws surrounding employment, injuries and medical marijuana usage, any Arizona workers injured on the job would be well advised to seek the counsel of a workers' compensation attorney.

Source: claimsjournal.com, "NCCI: Employers Have Many Questions When it Comes to Pot", Aug. 29, 2017

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