This is the next article in WorkersCompensation.com's “Comp and Cannabis” series, as Editor Dara Barney explores medical marijuana legislation state-by-state, and what it means regarding workers' compensation.
Two agricultural states remain mum on general recognition regarding medical marijuana as a treatment: The potato state, Idaho, and the sunflower state, Kansas, according to the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
As of 2017, there was no progress on medical marijuana in Kansas legislation, per the organization.
“…Several bills were introduced this year that would have created comprehensive medical cannabis programs, and others were introduced that would have provided more limited protections for patients using low-THC cannabis products. Unfortunately, they all died in committee,” according to MPP’s website.
MPP’s goals are to legalize and regulate marijuana for people over the age of 18 nationwide, and for patients to be able to obtain it in a safe way, MPP Senior Communications Manager Morgan Fox told WorkersCompensation.com.
Federally, MPP also takes a stance. “One of our primary goals is to allow states to determine the marijuana policies that work best for them. Federal guidelines should be similar to those governing alcohol and primarily address safety issues and interstate commerce,” she said.
The wheat state seems to have not taken to the idea of recreational or medicinal use, based on the past and present. While acceptance for the drug seems to be on the rise nationally, attorney Phillip Grubaugh of Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys wants to raise awareness of the drug’s concentration levels.
“…In the 1970s, another time of increased marijuana use, the drug contained a THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) content of about 1 percent. Today’s products contain about 13 percent and some strains are advertised as having 25 percent or more,” he wrote.
For people who turn to the black market for use, possessing any amount of marijuana can be a drug conviction in the state, and may involve a fine and/or jail time, depending on the amount.
“Historically, the culture of Kansas has been very anti-marijuana, which makes it difficult to educate voters and lawmakers. This difficulty carries over into the grassroots, meaning that there is less of a local grassroots reform presence there than in other states, which hinders reform efforts,” Fox said.
But what does this mean for workers’ comp? Besides no access for injured workers, which in turn raises no questions of reimbursement, because there’s no (legal access) to any sort of cannabis…
“Because Kansas has no medical marijuana program, it would be fruitless for workers to try to get workers' comp or insurance to try to pay for something that they cannot access legally in their state,” Fox said.
Grubaugh noted the affects marijuana can have on workers, including: memory loss in the short term, balance/coordination loss and decreased alertness/reactions.
“…The effects of marijuana can last from two to six hours, so someone who took the drug well before his shift began could still be feeling the effects and putting his co-workers at risk. Employers also report decreased productivity, poor attendance, and lower morale among workers who use marijuana,” he wrote.
What about reimbursement for injured workers as a whole?
“We have really only seen this issue recently. We support allowing insurance companies to cover the costs of medical marijuana where it is legal, particularly as it is often far less expensive than many prescription pharmaceuticals, and recent studies have shown that Medicare costs go down in states with effective medical marijuana programs,” she said.
Multiple Kansas law firms and the state Dept. of Labor had not responded to requests for comment by press time.
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