Supreme Court Just Says No

Two Supreme Courts rejected employee requests to have employers reimburse for medical cannabis costs. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not hear an appeal that pits the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) against a state workers’ compensation law requiring employers to reimburse workers for medical cannabis. Like many issues within the cannabis industry, there are competing and conflicting government positions. In this situation, the CSA says cannabis is federally illegal, while state law is saying employers need to reimburse employees for medical costs.

With the Supreme Court declining to take on the case, it reverts back to a Minnesota Supreme Court decision from October that overturned a workers’ compensation court decision that ordered Mendota Heights Dental Center and its insurer, Hartford Insurance Group, to pay for medicinal cannabis that petitioner Susan K. Musta was prescribed for an on-the-job neck injury. The appeal to change the decision back fell on deaf ears as the Court declined to hear. Both petitions asked the justices to weigh in on tensions between federal and state cannabis policies as they touched on medical marijuana patients’ right to be reimbursed.

In May, the Department of Justice (DOJ) weighed in on the Musta case and told the Supreme Court that it shouldn’t take up the case. In it’s brief, it wrote, “Minnesota’s Cannabis Act does not “require the medical assistance and MinnesotaCare programs”— state-run health programs for low-income patients—“to reimburse an enrollee or a provider for costs associated with the medical use of cannabis.”

The DOJ also noted in its brief that if the federally illegal substance of cannabis was forced upon companies to reimburse for the use, then companies could be forced to reimburse for other illegal substances like LSD. “A State could likewise compel private parties to provide reimbursements for services that are banned by federal law.”

The brief went on to say, “Minnesota’s Cannabis Act itself exempts state-run health programs for low-income patients from any requirement “to reimburse an enrollee or a provider for costs associated with the medical use of cannabis.” Minn. Stat. § 152.23(b) (2021). That exclusion—which by definition affects patients with the greatest financial needs—avoids placing
state officials who implement those programs into conflict with federal law. The conflict with the CSA remains, however, when Minnesota law compels private employers to subsidize the same federal crimes.”

The government seemed to acknowledge to conflict between the CSA and various state laws but clearly wants legislators to fix the problem versus the courts.

 

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