WORK COMP MEDICAL CANNABIS AWARD PREEMPTED BY FEDERAL LAW
On October 13, 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a decision in the case, Musta v. Mendota Heights Dental Center, overturning an award of medical cannabis to an injured employee. (note there was a companion case with the same result on the same day, Bierbach v. Digger’s Polaris).
The Court determined the Federal Controlled Substances Act, which makes possession of cannabis a federal crime, preempts provisions in the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act that make an employer liable for an injured employee’s cost of medical cannabis, regardless of whether the use of cannabis is reasonable and necessary.
After a long discussion of jurisdiction, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that federal law and state law are in conflict. It would be impossible for a Minnesota employer to comply with both state and federal law. Therefore, the compensation judge’s Order to reimburse medical cannabis expenses is preempted by the Controlled Substances Act. The Court explained that the state order to pay or reimburse cannabis could make the employer criminally liable for aiding and abetting the possession of cannabis under federal law.
Until that conflict is resolved by future legislation, an employer is not required to reimburse an injured employee’s claim for medical cannabis under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act.
In response to any claim for medical cannabis, an employer or insurer could reasonably provide the following response:
Pursuant to the Minnesota Supreme Court decision of Musta v. Mendota Heights Dental Center, filed October 13, 2021, the Controlled Substances Act, 21 USC Section 801–971 preempts any Minnesota workers’ compensation provision or order allowing medical cannabis, including Minn. Stat. §176.135, Subd. 1. Based upon the ruling of the Minnesota Supreme Court, medical cannabis is not payable due to federal preemption, whether or not the treatment might be reasonable and necessary.
While an employer or insurer cannot be required to pay for cannabis, nothing prohibits an employer who wants to resolve a claim to offer a lump sum settlement that employee may choose to use for various medical options, including cannabis, in exchange for closing out certain claims.
Please contact our office to discuss any claim for medical cannabis in the workers’ compensation system, or if you have questions regarding the scope of this decision. We are happy to assist you.