As New Jersey considers the legalization of marijuana, its residents can look to the experience of other states in this area. In Colorado, for instance, recreational marijuana may be legal, but its effects are felt in other areas as well.
One of those areas is Colorado’s workers’ compensation law. A Colorado widow recently had workers’ compensation payments to her halved as a result of her deceased husband’s legal marijuana use.
The husband had been crushed to death by a ski escalator in an accident while working at his place of employment. Initially, his widow had received full workers’ compensation payments.
The husband’s toxicology report later revealed that high levels of THC in his system. Because THC can stay in a person’s system for days, or even weeks, it cannot be known for certain if the husband was intoxicated at the time of the accident.
Colorado law allows the 50% cut in workers’ compensation benefits if tests show the use of marijuana or other controlled substances. Employers, in other words, are entitled to make the reduction by law despite the legalization of marijuana.
The case is scheduled for another hearing, so the story isn’t over yet. In the meantime, the workers’ compensation benefits for users of marijuana in Colorado remain at risk.
Unusual developments in workers’ compensation or in any law can create a variety of gray areas not anticipated by state legislators. Those gray areas can often benefit from the attention of an experienced attorney before, during and after the filing of a workers’ compensation claim.