In a groundbreaking decision, the New Jersey Superior Court decided the outcome of the confusing dispute between federal and state medical marijuana laws when it comes to paying for medical marijuana as a workers’ compensation benefit. In Hager v. M&K Construction, A-0102-18T3 (App. Div. January 13, 2020), the court held that the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 USC §841, does not preempt the NJ Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (MMA), NJSA 24:61-1 to 29.
Hager v. M&K Construction
Like New Jersey’s law, the Pennsylvania MMA was enacted to decriminalize the possession of a certain amount of marijuana for medical use by qualified patients. This runs afoul of the federal Controlled Substance Act, which defines marijuana in the strictest “Schedule 1” category, making the “manufacture, distribution, or possession” of marijuana a felony.
Two recent developments may lead to New Jersey employers being required to reimburse the cost of medical marijuana for workers’ compensation recipients. In a case of first impression, New Jersey’s Appellate Division, in Vincent Hager v. M&K Construction, affirmed a July 2018 order handed down by a workers’ compensation judge requiring an employer to reimburse the cost of medical marijuana used to treat pain resulting from a workplace injury.
In a case of first impression, the New Jersey Appellate Division held in January 2020 that an employee’s costs to use medical marijuana to treat chronic pain resulting from a work place injury is reimbursable by his employer.
The employer argued that the workers’ compensation order to reimburse Hager for his medical marijuana violated the federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”), which criminalizes the possession, manufacture, or distribution of marijuana and therefore preempts New Jersey’s Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act (“Jake Honig Act”). The employer further argued that the order required it to aid and abet the employee’s illegal use and possession of marijuana in violation of the CSA.
In a case of first impression, the New Jersey Appellate Division determined that employers in the state must reimburse employees for medical cannabis following a workplace accident, despite federal prohibitions against cannabis distribution. The January 13, 2020 decision in Hager v. M&K Construction, Case No.