Mass. Court Says Injured Worker Can’t Charge Insurer for Medical Marijuana Expenses

By | March 1, 2021

The Massachusetts Appeals Court has found that a worker can’t charge his workers’ comp insurer for the cost of medical marijuana treatment due to a work-related injury.

This comes after Mark T. Delano initially sought compensation for his medical marijuana expenses to treat pain resulting from an injury he sustained on the job in 2014.

Partners Healthcare System Inc., a self-insurer of workers’ comp benefits, denied the claim, and the claim was also denied by an administrative judge. The denial was affirmed on appeal by the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents.

In affirming the claim denial, the Massachusetts Appeals Court cited a 2020 case in which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that a workers’ comp insurer can’t be required to pay for medical marijuana expenses based on Massachusetts’ medical marijuana act alone.

In that case, claimant Daniel Wright was seeking compensation for medical marijuana expenses to treat chronic pain stemming from two work-related injuries. Similar to Delano’s case, his claim was denied by an administrative judge, and the denial was affirmed on appeal by the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court later affirmed the decision of the reviewing board, stating in its opinion that “the current legal landscape of medical marijuana law may, at best, be described as a hazy thicket” in which marijuana remains illegal at the federal level while Massachusetts, along with many other states, have legalized its use for medicinal purposes.

Despite its legality at the state level, The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Wright’s case pointed to the reimbursement limitation provision of Massachusetts’ medical marijuana act. The provision prevents a health insurance provider or government agency from being ordered to reimburse a claimant for medical marijuana expenses, as the substance remains illegal under federal law.

The Appeals Court in Delano’s case stated in its decision that the Wright case set a precedent, as it took into consideration how the Massachusetts medical marijuana act was “carefully drafted within a difficult regulatory environment and contained specific provisions designed to avoid conflicts with Federal law.”

With this in mind, the Appeals Court affirmed the decision of the reviewing board, finding that Partners Healthcare System was not responsible for the cost of medical marijuana treatment due to Delano’s work-related injury.

Topics Carriers Workers' Compensation Abuse Molestation Cannabis Massachusetts

About Elizabeth Blosfield

Elizabeth Blosfield is the East region editor for Insurance Journal. She can be reached at eblosfield@wellsmedia.com. More from Elizabeth Blosfield

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