Marijuana and Worker Safety

With marijuana now being legal in Massachusetts, some are questioning what will happen if workers are showing up for the job under the influence of marijuana. This is not an easy question to answer, since many consider the drug a medicine just like any other drug, according to a recent news article from Claims Journal.

marijuanaFor obvious reasons, the insurance industry and especially those companies that sell workers’ compensation policies in the Commonwealth are concerned about this issue, since marijuana was legalized in the 2016 election when voters approved that new law. As one might imagine, the workers’ compensation insurance companies do not want to pay benefits to an employee who was injured when he or she was under the influence of marijuana.

However, as our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, these insurance companies generally do not want to pay for any benefits, since they make money by charging premiums and paying out less in benefits.  As we have seen in far too many cases, the insurance companies are often far more concerned about their profit and loss statement than they are about workers getting the benefits to which they are rightfully entitled.

One of the questions that often arises in this context is whether the employers will be able to test employees for drugs, including marijuana.  While the laws are different in every state, as the law in Massachusetts states, the authority of employers will not be changed by the passage of this marijuana legalization law.  In other words, if your employer was able to test you for marijuana before legalization, then they can do the same after legalization has passed.

One of the reasons for this is because they have struck down other states’ attempts to take action against employees on marijuana where it is legal to use by state law, such as in Colorado.  The courts have held that since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, a state cannot force an employer to allow employees to work while under the influence of marijuana.

It should also be noted that the only reason all of these dispensaries are allowed to exist is because the Obama administration and others decided to not allow the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to go after people for marijuana offenses in a jurisdiction in which local law makes it legal, so long as they are following the local laws. This could all change if President Donald Trump were to decide that the DEA should go back to busting dispensary owners and medical marijuana patients as they did for many years in the past.

However, it seems that the laws are ever evolving in this area, and there is going to be a lot more litigation.  If you have been injured on the job in Boston and are told that your employer won’t approve your workers’ compensation benefits claim because they suspect or know you were on marijuana, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.

If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston work accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:

How Marijuana Affects Worker Rights, Workplace Safety, December 5, 2016, By Bob Salsberg, Claims Journal

More Blog Entries:

Parr v. Breeden – Supervisor Co-Workers Not Liable Under Workers’ Comp Exclusive Remedy, July 3, 2016, Boston Work Accident Lawyer Blog

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