Many states have legalized medical marijuana in recent years. Procon.org reports that over half of U.S. states have legalized marijuana for medical use to some extent.
Georgia has not yet legalized marijuana for medical use. However, Georgia passed a law in 2015 which allows the use of cannabis oil in certain situations. Other states also have passed laws which allow for the use of cannabis oil for medical treatment.
As states increase the ability to use marijuana and its derivatives for medical treatment, many people have questions about how that affects workers’ compensation. I will discuss below how some of these questions might be answered.
Will Georgia workers’ compensation cover medical marijuana treatment?
Nothing in Georgia’s workers’ compensation law specifically bars legal marijuana treatment. Currently, Georgia does not have a full fledged medical marijuana law. Lets examine the requirements that must occur for the workers’ compensation insurance company to have to pay for any medical treatment.
An authorized physician must order the treatment
Workers compensation insurance companies only have to pay for medical treatment that authorized medical providers order. Currently, a Georgia doctor cannot prescribe marijuana for medical purposes. Because of that, workers compensation insurance companies will not currently end up paying for medical marijuana treatment ordered by a Georgia doctor at this time.
What if the injured worker lives and treats in a state where medical marijuana is legal?
Most of the people I represent live in Georgia. However, a few of the people I represent live in other states but have a Georgia workers compensation claim. Often, these people treat with doctors outside of Georgia for their work injuries.
I have never had a client prescribed medical marijuana for their work injury. But, if a client was treating in a state where medical marijuana was legal, the workers compensation insurance company may have to pay for that prescription if it meets other requirements of Georgia’s workers compensation law.
The primary requirement the prescription would have to meet is reasonable and necessary treatment for the work injury. Some states have determined that medical marijuana can be reasonable and necessary treatment for a work injury. However, there are difficulties with making workers compensation insurance companies pay for this treatment.
Could I get treatment for my injury under Georgia’s current cannabis oil law?
As I mentioned earlier in this article, Georgia does have a law covering the medical use of cannabis oil. While it may change in the future, that law only allows treatment for limited conditions like:
- Seizure disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Mitochondrial disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sickle cell disease
Even with these diseases, the law may only allow the use of cannabis oil when the disease approaches end stage.
As this list makes clear, Georgia’s current cannabis oil law does not cover most work injuries. While some of the conditions and diseases on the list could develop from a work injury or possibly as an occupational disease, most workers compensation claims involve orthopedic injuries.
Because of that, Georgia’s current law provides almost no benefit to injured workers. This is the case even if a doctor thinks their work injury would benefit from treatment with cannabis oil.
Will the Georgia legislature expand coverage of medical marijuana in Georgia?
I don’t know. In March 2017, a new cannabis oil bill passed the Georgia House. It may become law. It is certainly possible that Georgia may legalize the use of cannabis oil or even marijuana for more medical purposes in the future.
As I have written about in the past, the use of opioids to treat pain has become a big issue. Some 2017 data indicates that medical marijuana could help with the “opioid crisis”.
In a study of 27 states, the 9 states which had legalized marijuana to some extent saw decreases in hospitalizations for opioid abuse, addiction, and overdoses. This data certainly shows a potential for considering whether medical marijuana may provide a better treatment option for pain than opioids and other pain management options. It might lead to more states legalizing marijuana for treatment of certain painful medical conditions.