Medical marijuana and recreational marijuana have been legalized or decriminalized in numerous states, including here in California. Does that mean you’re free to use marijuana or cannabis while you are working? If you get hurt on the job while under the effects of marijuana, does that also hurt your chances of getting workers’ compensation benefits? The answers can be complicated and varied.
The short answer is ‘yes,’ marijuana use can negatively affect your workers’ compensation claim, especially if you use the drug recreationally.
Problems with Marijuana Use While Working
Workers’ compensation claims can be denied if the claimant was intoxicated while on the job. Although marijuana does not intoxicate a user in the same way as alcohol does, it causes impairment with its own set of side effects, like worsened focus, wandering thoughts, and slowed reaction times. This impairment can be the groundwork for a case denial.
For example, a worker uses recreational marijuana before clocking into work. A few hours later, they are trying to use a ladder when they fall off and get injured. The employer and/or insurer could argue that the fall was caused by balance issues related to marijuana impairment and challenge the claim. Unless there is clear evidence that there was another issue with the ladder that caused the fall, the worker will probably lose that claim.
Is Medical Marijuana Use Okay?
Medical marijuana creates a tricky situation when determining the validity of a workers’ compensation case. Can someone be blamed for the side effects of the medication they use if an accident occurs? In a way, yes, they can be.
If you are prescribed a medication that could interfere with your ability to safely perform your work, then you have to notify your employer. For example, crane operators probably should not work while they are taking a medication that can cause drowsiness or narcolepsy. If you are impaired by your medical marijuana and get into an accident because of that impairment, but you never informed your employer about that risk, then the argument could be made that you knowingly engaged in unsafe work behavior, which is sometimes a workers’ comp disqualifier.
To get help with your workers’ compensation claim after you were injured and marijuana impairment might have been involved, you should contact Alvandi Law Group in Orange County, California. We can help with highly complex cases that other firms might not accept.