Andrew Panaggio, a New Hampshire man who was prescribed medical marijuana to help with his back pain has won a second victory in a legal battle regarding workman’s compensation and insurance reimbursement.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in favor of Panaggio, who had hurt his back at work and was approved by the state Department of Health and Human Services to participate in a therapeutic cannabis program in 2016. The state had argued that the insurance carrier, under the federal Controlled Substances Act, could be prosecuted for aiding and abetting a marijuana possession crime if it has to reimburse himself.
The Question: Are Medical Marijuana Patients Owed Insurance Reimbursement?
In a 2019 ruling, the court declared the state labor appeals board was wrong to determine that workers’ compensation insurance for medical cannabis couldn’t be reimbursed, but the federal law question was unresolved. He had used medical marijuana to treat ongoing pain, and the labor board found Panaggio’s treatment “medically necessary,” disagreeing with the insurance carrier, but it still denied payment because “possession of marijuana is still a federal crime” that potentially exposed them to prosecution.
The court noted that other courts have considered whether the Controlled Substance Act preempts a state order requiring medical marijuana reimbursement, and that the results are mixed. However, back in 2018 a case in Maine ruled against a paper mill worker who was disabled after being hurt on the job back in 1989. And last year, in New Jersey, an appeals court ruled that a contractor must reimburse a former employee for the cost of medical marijuana that was used to treat the individuals pain from a work-related injury.
According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, at least five states have found medical marijuana treatment as reimbursable under their workers’ compensation laws, and other states have proposed similar laws. Several states have passed laws excluding medical marijuana treatment from workers’ compensation reimbursement, nonetheless it was a victory for the Concord, N.H. man, Andrew Panaggio.
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