Marijuana Use Can Impact Your Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Marijuana Use Can Impact Your Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Denver Workers Compensation

When it comes to marijuana use on-the-job, the best advice is “don’t do it!” Contrary to what you may believe, whether for medical or recreational uses, your right to toke is not protected by law in the work environment. Colorado has legalized both the medical and recreational consumption of marijuana, but our state laws still butt up against federal laws. And this makes for lots of confusion across the board.

Employers on Marijuana Use

Legal marijuana, whether for medical reasons or recreational use, is no mandate for use at work. Employers are well within their legal rights to prohibit consumption at work and to require drug testing to weed out users from their workforce.

Federal law prohibits the possession and consumption of marijuana for any reason. This supports the rights of employers in banning marijuana consumption in their employees. Now that the new Trump administration is in place, federal versus state law on marijuana may become even murkier. Currently, there is no clear-cut answer on whether the federal government will be cracking down on states that allow legal marijuana use.

Statewide Marijuana Use Laws

As of the November 2016 election, more than half of all the states in the union, plus D.C., now have medical and/or recreational marijuana use legislation on their books.

1. California passed legal recreational marijuana use last November.
2. Massachusetts joined the ranks of recreational marijuana use states this past election.
3. Maine will soon be allowing limited recreational marijuana use and on-site consumption in social clubs.
4. Though late to the party, Nevada is now a legal recreational marijuana state.
5. Washington, D.C. voted for nonmedical marijuana use in 2014.
6. Oregon came aboard on recreational use of marijuana in the summer of 2015.
7. Alaska passed recreational marijuana law in 2015.
8. Colorado passed legislation to allow recreational marijuana use in 2012. Recent ballot initiatives support public consumption programs in Denver.
9. Washington joined Colorado in groundbreaking recreational marijuana use in 2012.
10. Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware have all legalized medical marijuana.

Bottom Line: Colorado Statute on Marijuana and Workers’ Compensation

Regardless of what the future holds for legal marijuana consumption, for now, Colorado Statute, Article 42 of Title 8 limits your financial benefits under the workers’ compensation system if you test positive for a controlled substance. You can lose 50 percent of your income replacement benefits if marijuana use is detected. While you will still receive full medical treatment benefits, your finances will likely suffer greatly from this impact.

Note that the issue with federal vs. state laws on marijuana impact this area of the law as well. §8-42-112.5. C.R.S. excludes medically prescribed drugs from the identified controlled substances, but that’s the problem. Doctors in Colorado cannot prescribe marijuana. They can only advise their patients on its use.

If you have questions about marijuana and the workplace and workers’ compensation benefits, ask a lawyer. Your pot-smoking buddy probably has a lot of opinions and knows quite a bit about the legalities of smoking weed in Colorado. But workers’ compensation is a complicated system wherein state and federal laws often overlap. A Colorado workers’ compensation lawyer is your best source of information on this thorny subject. We’re always here to answer your questions- don’t wait- get a free consultation on your workers’ compensation case now.


Medical Marijuana In The Workplace- 50 Shades Of Gray Area

Medical Marijuana In The Workplace- 50 Shades Of Gray Area

Denver Disability Denver Workers Compensation Social Security Blog Workers Compensation Blog

Almost everyone in Colorado knows marijuana (and medical marijuana) is legal. An enormous question, however, is marijuana in the workplace. While recreational marijuana use, as with recreational alcohol or other intoxicants, is firmly in the prohibited category, where does medical marijuana fall? Denver workers’ compensation attorneys Kaplan & Morrell can attest if a worker is injured on the job and tests positive for drugs after the injury, the benefits may be significantly reduced or jeopardized. Medical marijuana lives in an odd limbo, however, because while the substance and use for medical purposes is legal under Colorado law, Federal law still prohibits its use. Denver workers’ compensation lawyers work hard to get workers the benefits they deserve but the law has some gray areas. Where exactly does medical marijuana fall in the work comp system, especially when treating physicians prescribe marijuana to injured workers? Should taxpayers actually expect to fund marijuana as a treatment for those injured on the job?

Related: 3 Things You Need To Know About Medical Marijuana & Workers Compensation In Colorado

According to the National Council for Compensation Insurance, insurers have begun to receive requests for payouts in cases including medical marijuana. John Leonard, president and chief executive officer of Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Co., says marijuana and workers’ compensation has “got a lot more hype than what’s happening in the marketplace.” Leonard has looked through his claims and so far, there haven’t been any cases where doctors actually requested marijuana to treat workers. Leonard says his company is willing to abide by doctors’ orders, up to and including any treatments legal in the doctors’ respective states.

Medical marijuana in the workplace is, of course, a very new subject and not one too many work comp lawyers in Denver have had much access to. In Colorado, a man was terminated because he was using marijuana off-duty to cope with the pain. The initial judge in the case decided the termination was lawful because the marijuana violates federal law. The case is now being reviewed in the Colorado Supreme Court. Another case featuring this subject occurred in New Mexico, where a judge has ordered an insurance carrier to reimburse a worker for the cost of medical marijuana prescribed for his back pain. This case is also being reviewed by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Workers Compensation can be difficult, confusing, and very complex. Kaplan Morrell has helped thousands of injured workers since 1997 get the benefits they deserve. Contact us or call us at (866) 356-9898 for your free consultation.




Medical Marijuana & Colorado Workers Compensation Law: Three Things to Know

Workers Compensation Blog

Colorado Voters approved the decriminalization of Marijuana for medical purposes in 2000.   Under this amendment to the Colorado Constitution, individuals can follow a procedure to have a physician “recommend” medical marijuana in order to obtain a Medical Marijuana License for a “debilitating medical condition” defined broadly to include conditions include “severe pain” and “severe nausea.”

It has taken over a decade the issue to begin having ripples in Workers Compensation but there are three important things you should know:


The Medical Marijuana Amendment provides that “Nothing in this section shall require any employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any work place.”  Thus far – at least in the Unemployment Claims context – the Courts are interpreting this to include even presence of marijuana in the bloodstream.  So long as the employer communicates and enforces a zero tolerance policy for testing positive for marijuana – then such workers will be denied unemployment.

As of April 2012 – there are no Colorado Court of Appeals or Colorado Supreme Court decisions deciding whether other employment protections may provide protection.


Workers Compensation carrier typically point to Section 10(a), “No governmental, private, or any other health insurance provider shall be required to be liable for any claim for reimbursement for the medical use of marijuana.”  Although there are rare individual cases where insurance carriers have voluntarily agreed to reimburse an injured worker – in lieu of paying for more costly narcotics – there has not yet been a case where al Administrative Law Judge has ordered such a benefit and been affirmed or reversed on appeal.

At some point – we expect a case to make its way through the system so that we can have some guidance on this issue.

Despite the wording of the Amendment, it may not apply to Workers’ Compensation Carriers since they do not sell “health” insurance.


Although it shields a person from prosecution for State and Local charges, the Federal Government has made it clear that it does not intend to be limited in pursuing Federal charges.  Most enforcement efforts have been focused on producers and sellers rather than the end user.

In Workers’ Compensation, expect the insurance carrier to seek the paperwork you provided the physician who wrote the recommendation for medical marijuana.  The carrier will hope you complained of pain in the same area you later injured at work, so that they can minimize the impact of your work injury.

It is not always easy to get workers’ compensation benefits, and if you have been – or are currently are – a medical marijuana patient in Colorado- you need the support and and experience of a Colorado workers compensation attorney immediately. Contact us here or call us at (866) 356-9898 for your free legal consultation.