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Bob Young
510-251-9470

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November 9, 2016

CWCI Report Looks at Implications of Legalized Marijuana on California WC

Oakland – The California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) has published an analysis on the implications of the passage of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational use of marijuana in California, on employers, workers’ compensation insurers, and the state’s work force. 

Twenty years ago, California led the nation in legalizing medical marijuana, but with voters approving Proposition 64 this week, the state has joined a growing number of jurisdictions that have relaxed their laws to allow recreational use of marijuana by adults. At the same time, passage of the initiative has raised a number of questions and concerns among employers and insurers because the DEA still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, its use is prohibited by federal law, and under current California law insurers cannot be required to pay for it even if it has been recommended for medical purposes.

The Institute white paper, authored by CWCI General Counsel Ellen Sims Langille, examines the intersection of workers’ compensation with medical and recreational marijuana laws in California, in other states, and at the federal level. Among the issues discussed are the developing trend toward compelled compensation in various jurisdictions; questions surrounding the compensability of work injuries suffered by medicinal and recreational marijuana users; the applicability and enforcement of drug-free workplace policies; and the potential for retaliation and discrimination claims. The report also reviews the ongoing debate over the medical efficacy of marijuana; the use of marijuana and its derivatives as an alternative to more powerful opioids; obstacles such as the lack of uniform dosage levels, standardized delivery methods, and FDA oversight; and the question of how medical marijuana may fit with an insurer’s obligation to provide injured workers with reasonable and necessary medical treatment to cure and relieve the effects of their work injury.

The Institute has released the white paper as a CWCI Report to the Industry, “Working Through the Haze:  Implications of Legalized Marijuana for California Workers’ Compensation System,” which is available for free to the public in the Research section of the CWCI website, www.cwci.org/research.html.

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