Home > Uncategorized > Reuters: States with Med. MJ Seeing Decrease in Opioid Hospitalizations

Reuters: States with Med. MJ Seeing Decrease in Opioid Hospitalizations

Happy Wednesday, dear readers!

As Americans, we tend to look down on the pot calling the opioids drugs (or is it the pot calling the kettle black?), but the truth is that in California, as in the rest of the Nation (and the world?) Marijuana remains to be an issue for medicinal purposes, recreational use, and, of course, workers’ compensation.

The rhetoric is fairly polarized.  In the pro-legalization side, users and non-using supporters argue that the most dangerous aspect of marijuana is being caught by law enforcement officers while possessing it and being exposed to the dangers of arrest and incarceration.

On the other side, those in favor of prohibition argue that it is used as a gateway drug to more serious narcotics and as a funding tool for terrorists, international criminal syndicates, and violent criminals.

Putting aside the morality of it all and focusing just on the impact on workers’ compensation, the question is still open, after all these years, whether an injured worker can require an insurer to reimburse him or her for medical marijuana obtained in compliance with California’s laws and in blatant violation of Federal regulations.

But, as tomorrow is April 20th, which appears to be a holiday for neo-Nazis and marijuana enthusiasts alike, I thought I’d share an interesting article that has been floating around the web.

Recently Reuters reported that “[i]n states that legalized medical marijuana, U.S. hospitals failed to see a predicted influx of pot smokers, but in an unexpected twist, they treated far fewer opioid users”.

In the workers’ compensation community, we regularly bemoan the effect opioids have on our claims.  Some doctors go as far as offering three-month supplies for a substance they know is highly addictive and devastating.  Your humble blogger has had injured workers tell him at deposition that they pay for medical marijuana out-of-pocket and decline industrially provided opioid drugs because of the difference in effect: both provide pain relief, but for some injured worker, medical marijuana allows them to have overall function in their activities of daily living, while the opioids do not.

Your humble blogger is frustrated at the idea that workers’ compensation premiums should pay for what is generally perceived as a recreation drug while no one is willing to subsidize my cocktails. That frustration aside, however, it may be worth exploring what impact “Mary Jane” will have on the bottom line.  If paying for medical marijuana actually is cheaper and gets better results, should insurers consider reimbursing injured workers to discourage opioid dependence?

Obviously, every workers’ compensation pocket will have to decide this for itself, but as we’re all looking for better results with lower costs, perhaps some brave defendants will step up and be our marijuana guinea pigs?

Drive safe, tomorrow, dear readers – I anticipate more than a few drivers and pedestrians absent-mindedly walking around when the smoke gets in their eyes.

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  1. April 26th, 2017 at 12:36 | #1

    Greetings Mr. Grinsberg!

    One of the primary motivators in getting MMJ passed in California in 1996 under the Compassionate Use Act (Health and Safety Code 11362.5) was the legislative history which made clear that insurance carrier CANNOT be required to reimburse or provide medical marijuana. This was confirmed by the 2013 case of Pedro De Dios v. Carroll’s Tire (ADJ528481, ADJ602408), remanded back to WCAB who had granted reimbursement to claimant for self-procured medical marijuana.

    Additional information can be found in the article http://www.wrightandfalls.com/reimbursement-for-medical-marijuana-not-under-workers-compensation/

    Thank you for continuing to inform the defense worker’s compensation community on breaking legal issues!
    Katie Siemont
    Applicant Attorney – Vallejo / Napa / Santa Rosa / Fairfield / Vacaville

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