NEWS / Legal News - November 2020

The Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) recently issued a decision involving the compensability of medical marijuana

Medical Marijuana Compensability

Beirbach v. Diggers’s Polaris

The employee suffered a work injury, and medical marijuana was recommended to treat the resulting intractable pain.

The employer and insurer denied the employee’s claims for medical marijuana on the basis that it was not reasonable or necessary and that it was illegal under federal law.  

Compensation Judge William J. Marshall ordered the employer and insurer to reimburse the employee for his medical marijuana.

The WCCA affirmed the Compensation Judge's decision and found that medical marijuana is compensable. The WCCA found that the medical marijuana, in this case, was reasonable and necessary because the employee had complied with Minnesota’s medical marijuana laws. It also noted that the Treatment Parameters specifically provide that medical cannabis, under the medical cannabis program, is not an illegal substance.

The WCCA, however, chose not to answer the larger question of whether an employer and insurer could be ordered to reimburse an employee for medical marijuana in violation of federal criminal law, stating that this question is outside of its limited workers’ compensation jurisdiction.

There are other cases on appeal right now dealing with this same issue. It is almost certain that this case, or one of the others, will be appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court to address the conflict between Minnesota’s medical marijuana law and federal criminal law. Please watch for updates as these cases make their way through the appellate system. For now, employers and insurers concerned about potential violation of federal law may continue to deny medical marijuana claims on these grounds but should also prepare for a potentially lengthy appeals process until the Minnesota Supreme Court definitively addresses this issue.

View the decision here.

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