Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Holds Employer Financially Responsible for Employee’s Medical Marijuana Treatment

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Holds Employer Financially Responsible for Employee’s Medical Marijuana Treatment

On March 17, 2023, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court reversed the holdings of Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Payment Judge (WC Judge) and Workers’ Payment Board (WC Board) and held that an personnel was entitled to be reimbursed for health-related marijuana as suggested and considered vital by his doctor. Teresa L. Fegley, Executrix to the Estate of Paul Sheetz v. Firestone Tire & Rubber, Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania Docket No. 680 C.D. 2021.

Qualifications On September 19, 1977, Paul Sheetz was injured throughout the system of his employment with Firestone Tire & Rubber (Firestone) and gained continuing professional medical reimbursement from his employer. From 1977 forward, he underwent two back surgical procedures and was recommended painkillers, such as OxyContin. Sheetz started getting suggestions for clinical cannabis in January 2019, and subsequently weaned himself off OxyContin and diazepam. His former employer refused to pay back for his health-related marijuana cure, prompting Sheetz to file a workers’ compensation assert and appeals of unfavorable rulings by a WC Judge and the WC Board.

Holdings and Views In the Opinion issued by six of a 7-judge panel hearing the situation, the courtroom in the beginning noted the conflict concerning Pennsylvania point out regulation (which recognizes health-related marijuana as a bona fide healthcare cure for many ailments, including continual agony) and federal regulation (which prohibits any use of or payment for marijuana). The Commonwealth Court held Firestone experienced not waived a provision of Pennsylvania’s Professional medical Cannabis Act (MMA), stating that the act does not mandate “insurers” to offer “coverage” for healthcare marijuana procedure. MMA at 355 P.S. § 10231.2102. The court docket even more discovered that Firestone could not be excluded from the undefined term “insurer” less than the MMA with respect to its duties to supply workers’ compensation advantages to its former personnel.

The greater part then distinguished concerning “coverage” and “reimbursement,” getting that when Firestone could not be compelled to give insurance policies coverage underneath the MMA, that act also states that an employee could not be denied a “right or privilege” dependent on healthcare cannabis use. MMA at 355 P.S. § 10231.2103(a). It was famous that quite a few states experienced specially excluded “reimbursement” from their statutes and Pennsylvania’s failure to do so should be inferred as reflecting an intention that the MMA does not intend to exclude an insurer’s “reimbursement” obligations. Because the MMA acknowledges the validity of professional medical cannabis as a procedure for chronic soreness, a WC insurance company cannot deny an staff the right to receive reimbursement for medically essential and lawful cure.

Last but not least, the court’s bulk located that giving reimbursement for procedure recommended by a physician in accord with the provisions of the MMA would not trigger the WC insurer to “manufacture, distribute, or dispense” a controlled substance and, for that reason, did not violate federal law.

The greater part then remanded the case to the WC Decide to figure out irrespective of whether a penalty need to be awarded from the employer in favor of the Estate of its now deceased employee.

In a dissenting viewpoint, the seventh member of the panel, Honorable Fizzano Cannon, identified that reimbursement of healthcare marijuana cure does in truth constitute dispensing a managed compound, and as a result ought to not be permitted underneath Pennsylvania regulation.

The Fegley keeping is a make any difference of very first impression in Pennsylvania, and is consistent with identical holdings in New Mexico, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York and Connecticut.