While Ohio’s recently enacted medical marijuana law has been heralded as a significant victory for needy patients suffering from severe medical conditions, it may not be all good news – particularly for injured workers who are in need of workers’ compensation benefits.
In fact, some disabled workers may find themselves ineligible or workers’ comp benefits if they also happen to be patients taking medical marijuana on a regular basis.
Understanding the potential problem
Specifically, under current workers’ compensation laws in Ohio, an injured employee is not entitled to receive workers’ comp benefits if he or she is under the influence of marijuana at the time of the work-related injury – regardless of whether a physician actually recommended the marijuana use.
In addition, employers don’t even have to prove that a worker’s marijuana use actually caused the accident. They merely have to show that the injured worker had a certain level of cannabinoids in his or her system within 32 hours of the injury. In fact, there is a presumption under the law – albeit a rebuttable presumption – that an employee’s marijuana use is the proximate cause of his or her injury if a urine test indicates 50 ng/mL or more of cannabinoids in his or her urine (or 15 ng/mL if different testing techniques are used).
Unfortunately, the problem is that many regular marijuana users – including possibly medical marijuana patients – are consistently over these limits, even after the effects of the drug have long worn off. Indeed, some studies have found that regular marijuana users will have high levels of cannabinoids/THC in their system for several days after taking the drug. This means there is the risk that injured workers may lose out on workers’ comp benefits simply because they take medical marijuana, even if they are clear-headed at the time of the accident.
Regardless of whether this law is ever changed, one thing remains clear, injured workers often have an uphill battle when it comes to obtaining the benefits they deserve. This is one reason why you should always consult with an experienced attorney following an on-the-job injury. A skilled workers’ comp lawyer can explain your options and help ensure your rights protected.