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How Does Weed Affect My Workers’ Comp Claim

Man blowing out puffs of smoke while smoking weed hand rolled cigarette at home

Medicinal marijuana has been legal in California for some time, and now recreational possession and usage are completely legal for adults. If cannabis is legal in California, then weed should not have any effect on your workers’ compensation claim, right? And, if you are prescribed medical marijuana to treat a workplace injury, your employer’s workers’ comp policy should cover it, true? Unfortunately, cannabis matters are not so simple.

If you have a workers’ comp claim and you have a question about marijuana, a seasoned California workers’ comp attorney at Invictus Law can help.

Marijuana is Still Illegal Federally

Although cannabis is legal in California and dozens of other states, it remains a controlled substance under federal law. Under the current Congress and Presidency, there has already been a movement to legalize or decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. These laws, however, have yet to be passed or enacted.

Given that marijuana possession and distribution are illegal under federal law, employers can continue to prohibit employees from using marijuana, even during their off-hours. Employers can refuse to hire employees because they use marijuana, they can terminate an employee for using marijuana inside or outside the workplace, and they can even drug test employees so long as they follow the appropriate rules for doing so. If an employee has a valid medical marijuana prescription, they might have additional protections, but the law is far from clearly in favor of employees.

If Marijuana Was Involved in Your Accident, You Could Lose Coverage

California workers are generally entitled to workers’ comp coverage after any workplace injury, regardless of fault. There are, however, a few exceptions. Workers are not entitled to workers’ compensation coverage if:

  • They intentionally hurt themselves
  • They were committing illegal conduct at the time of the accident
  • They caused an accident because they were intoxicated at the time

Even though marijuana is legal for recreational and medicinal use, there are still activities workers cannot do while high. These include:

  • Driving a motor vehicle
  • Operating heavy machinery
  • Engaging in other similarly dangerous activities

If you were high while on the job and you were injured in a workplace accident, you might be denied workers’ compensation. The exception only applies, however, if the worker’s intoxication contributed to the accident.

Just Because You Smoke Does Not Mean You Don’t Get Workers’ Comp

Not every situation involving marijuana is clear-cut. A claim can quickly become complicated if, for example, you were injured by a piece of defective equipment but you were under the influence of marijuana at the time. It’s also unclear what the standard for “impairment” is when it comes to marijuana consumption.

Moreover, marijuana stays in the body for weeks after consumption. What if you were perfectly clear-headed at the time of the accident but you test positive for marijuana from a week earlier?

Employers and their workers’ comp insurance carriers are likely to investigate not only the circumstances of a workplace accident but also the conduct of the injured employee. They may look for any reason to deny coverage. Just because you have consumed weed at some point in the past does not mean a workers’ comp insurance company can deny you coverage. A savvy Southern California workers’ compensation attorney can help you fight for coverage and avoid wrongful denials.

Invictus Law, P.C. is a workers’ compensation law firm specializing in representing California’s injured workers. We strive to help clients get the care they need to obtain the best recovery possible and get on with their lives.
If your employer or workers’ comp insurer is denying you coverage, you need effective legal representation on your side. We’re board-certified specialists in workers’ compensation. You don’t have to pay unless we recover on your behalf. Contact Invictus Law today for help.

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