Because the U.S. Federal Government has dug-in its feet, leaving marijuana as an illegal, Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, state governments have been left to individually pave their own legalization paths, leaving a frustrated public in the wake. Employers, employees, doctors, workers comp case managers, and more feel frustratingly in-the-dark as ever-diversified, continually evolving legislation continues to change the landscape. This is the first post of our two part series of spotlighting medical marijuana in the marketplace.
What We Do Know About Medical Marijuana
Though state laws vary widely on the amount of legal possession and personal cultivation for medical use, to-date 29 states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical use, including 8 states who’ve legalized its use recreationally. For medicinal purposes, marijuana has been scientifically confirmed effective for pain relief, appetite stimulation, nausea control, and reducing ocular pressure. It is arguably cheaper and less addictive than opioids, however both research and quality control are lacking. For injured workers and those in the workers’ comp industry, its most-likely application is pain relief, however it’s typically not be the first drug in the treatment lineup for prescribing physicians.
What’s Murky About Medical Marijuana and Workers’ Compensation
Marijuana dispensing differs from run-of-the-mill pharmaceuticals, with product obtained from dispensaries or home growth, not pharmacies, leading to a gap in patient information on potentially dangerous drug interactions. Patient protections also remain muddy. Still illegal under federal law, stateside court rulings are chaotic. Fifteen states offer little to no employee protection, while 11 states explicitly provide protections from retaliatory actions to limits on drug testing from employers. Furthermore, all states with medical marijuana have pending legislation and litigation that could have a broad impact on the workplace, creating a landscape reminiscent of the Wild West.
Who’s Paying For Medical Marijuana Prescriptions?
Who knows? Medical marijuana’s Schedule I status prohibits its inclusion in the National Drug Code, leaving Medicaid and Medicare patients on the sidelines. This lack of regulation also equates to a dearth of coding, complicating processing for pharmacy benefits managers. And state-by-state case law for prescription coverage from employer-sponsored coverage to workers’ comp, like employee protection legislation, also varies widely.
Who’s Got a Headache?
Employers. Though there is federal protection backing drug-free workplace policies, including “zero-tolerance” for specific jobs such as heavy equipment operators, pilots, and surgeons, ever-changing legislation makes it difficult for employers to figure out which end is up. In the meantime, knowledge of state-specific legislation remains key to compliance, with an attitude of managing medical marijuana like any other powerful legal prescription drug that could impair mental capacity a logical choice: Accommodate the needs of injured workers – but uphold a safe work environment, as always. ANS Solutions Medical Cost Containment Programs are the only end to end pharmaceutical cost containment programs in the industry that genuinely put the patient first, while minimizing the cost of settlement in large loss workers’ comp claims.
About the Author: Anthony Sambucini is a founding principal and the Chief Executive Officer of ANS Solutions. Anthony specializes in bridging the goals of clinical innovation and business strategy that have helped propel ANS Solutions into a national leader in Pharmacotherapy Review Services for workers’ comp insurers. As a consultant to insurance carriers and attorneys, Anthony customizes services based on the particular needs of the client and oversees all activities related to business development and company operations. For more information about ANS Solutions visit http://ans-solutions.com/.
Original content posted on http://ans-solutions.com/medical-marijuana-and-the-workers-compensation-conundrum-part-1/