NJ Sees Unprecedented Decision Involving an Injured Worker and Marijuana Treatment

11.30.2017


By Dara Barney

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.

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Trenton, NJ (WorkersCompensation.com) – New Jersey’s story on medical marijuana and injured workers involves a case presented before a judge as recent as January 2017.

Andrew Watson, a Trenton resident, hurt his hand while on the job at 84 Lumber in Pleasantville, according to Susan K. Livio of nj.com. He became a part of the medicinal marijuana program in 2014, per the ruling. 

“…Watson bought 2-1/4 ounces of state-sanctioned marijuana in the spring of 2014 but when his employer refused to pay, he stopped using it, according to the ruling,” writes Livio. “The price of one ounce of cannabis ranges from $425 to $520 for an average of $489 in the Garden State, not counting the 7 percent state sales tax, according to a state Health Department analysis. At those prices, New Jersey's medical pot is the most expensive in the nation. The law does not require insurance to cover the expense.”

Administrative Law Judge Ingrid L. French agreed medical marijuana had milder effects vs. the Percocet on the injured worker. Watson was able to wean himself down to a smaller amount of narcotics as well, according to pharmacy records. Judge French also said Watson had better pain management and functionality, writes Livio.

Philly.com took to the web pages to report a decision in December 2017. As a first, it was decided that the lumber company would need to pay for the marijuana treatment through its workers’ comp insurance, according to the ruling.

Watson’s attorney, Philip Faccenda, couldn’t be reached by WorkersCompensation.com before press time. The lumber company’s attorney, representing Gallagher Basset Services, John Carvelli, said via email, “…I cannot go on the record with any input.”

“…The original state law enacted in 2010 recognizes six diseases that qualify patients for medical marijuana upon their doctors' recommendation: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease; multiple sclerosis; terminal cancer; muscular dystrophy; inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn's disease; and any terminal illness with a prognosis less than a year,” per the article. 

It’s also noted that patients affected with seizure disorders can participate if original medical treatment fails. HIV, AIDs and cancer patients can participate as well, with specific chronic ailments.

When asked about injured worker claims and medical marijuana, Marshall McNight of the NJ Dept. of Banking and Insurance said via email, “We do not have anything on this. We review workers’ compensation rates upon receipt of reports from CRIB (Compensation Rating & Inspection Bureau).”

The NJ Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development hadn’t responded to WorkersCompensation.com’s questions by press time, but the NJ Dept. of Health Director of Communications Donna Leusner elaborated on the role it plays in medical marijuana treatment.

“The Department’s Medicinal Marijuana Program registers physicians, qualifying patients and caregivers and issues permits to and regulates Alternative Treatment Centers,” she said, noting additional pending conditions outlined by the Medical Marijuana Review Panel.

“…(On) Oct. 25, the Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel voted 5-1 to make a final recommendation to the Acting Commissioner of Health that the following conditions be added: Anxiety, migraine, Tourette’s Syndrome, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders & chronic pain of visceral origin. The Acting Commissioner now has up to 180 days to decide if the following conditions should be added,” and, “The panel voted 6-0 to reject petitions requesting that asthma and chronic fatigue syndrome be added.”


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