Medical Marijuana.jpgIn the fall of 2008, 63% of Michigan residents voted in favor of legalizing medical marihuana. Despite this majority, Michigan legislators continue to whittle away at that law.

The latest such effort involves Michigan’s Worker’s Compensation statute.

Specifically, under a provision of the Worker’s Disability Act, an employer must furnish or cause to be furnished, reasonable medical, surgical, or hospital services and medicine, or other attendance or treatment that is legal under State law, to an employee who receives a personal injury arising out of and in the course of employment.

But proposed legislation would amend the Worker’s Disability Compensation Act to specify that an employer is not required to reimburse, or cause to be reimbursed, charges for medical marihuana treatment.

How Many Michigan Employees Would be Affected by the Proposed Change to Worker’s Comp Law?

It is not clear how many Michigan employees this amendment would apply to. But back in April, the Detroit Free Press reported approximately 63,735 Michigan residents had registered to use marihuana for medical purposes under Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Law (Michigan spells marihuana with an “h”, rather than a “j”). 

Further, since 2009, the Michigan Department of Community Health reports that:

  • 222,413 original and renewal applications received since April 6, 2009.
  • 131,483 patient registrations issued.
  • 22,550 applications denied — most due to incomplete application or missing documentation

Just playing the numbers game, it is reasonable to presume at least more than a few employees are exercising their rights under Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act. It is also not clear what the cost or savings will be to employers.  

Simple is Better – Or at least less likely to be challenged   

Setting aside where you come down on the use of medicinal marijuana, it will be interesting to see if the proposed revision to Michigan’s Disability Act passes whether it will survive an obvious judicial challenge. Specifically, this proposed amendment clearly creates a conflict between Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act and the Worker’s Disability Act as to the use and coverage of medical marihuana. 

This conflict is entirely unnecessary as the proposed amendment could simply be revised to read eliminate the “legal under State law” provision and replace it with “legal under Federal law.” This is because – whether used for lawful medical reasons under Michigan law or something else – marihuana is not legal under federal law as it is classified as a schedule 1 drug.

It is also important to note that under Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act, commercial and non-profit health insurers are already exempted from having to be forced to reimburse a person for costs associated with the medical use of marihuana. See MCL § 333.26427

In any event, we will continue to monitor this proposed legislation.