In a ruling of interest to those concerned about the relationship between workers’ compensation laws and the conflict between state and federal law on marijuana, the Maine Supreme Court recently reversed a lower court, ruling in favor of an employer. The employer did not want to reimburse for medical marijuana as part of the employee Gaetan Bourgoin’s workers’ compensation.
The court held the federal Controlled Substances Act overrode Maine’s state Medical Marijuana law. Under federal law, of course, marijuana remains illegal. This case could be used by other states in their workers’ compensation cases.
The dissenting opinion in the case found no such conflict between state and federal law. The reimbursement, in fact, was just for medical expenses incurred by Mr. Bourgoin. According to the dissent, the company could not be found complicit in the actions of Mr. Bourgoin and his treating physician who recommended the marijuana. The dissent’s opinion was more in line with many other states who do not see medical marijuana as being in violation of federal laws.
Another dissenting opinion highlighted the fact that the medical marijuana was meant as a treatment in place of an ineffective opioids treatment. The opioids, in addition, had negatively affected Mr. Gourdoin.
The case is yet another example of the need for an attorney when handling a workers’ compensation claim. The workers’ compensation system, even under normal conditions, is a bureaucratic maze. Further, the claim administrators and others are not there to advocate for you. You need your own advocate, someone who is on your side with no conflicts of interest.