Injured Maryland Workers may soon benefit from the legalization of medical marijuana in Maryland
The laws legalizing the use of medical Marijuana in Maryland became effective as of April 2014. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Law allows a qualifying patient the right to use medical marijuana when prescribed by a qualifying physician. The marijuana must be purchased from a licensed dispensary that dispenses marijuana grown at a licensed Maryland grow facility.
The law will be implemented by the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission which is tasked with drafting regulations, implementing the program, issuing licenses, ensuring compliance with the law, and more.
Will medical marijuana be available for use under my Maryland Workers Compensation case?
Currently the Commission notes on their website ” At this time, the cost of medical cannabis is not reimbursable by any private or public insurance plan, Medicare or Medicaid, or through Veterans’ covered plans.” That being said it is still quite early considering the new medicine is not yet available at anyone. There are certainly some arguments that qualified and experienced workers compensation attorneys can make in an attempt to have the marijuana prescription covered by the workers comp insurer.
Given the current opiod epidemic, and Governor Hogan’s recent declaration of a state of emergency because of the opiod and heroin epidemic, medicinal marijuana may not be a bad alternative to prescription opiods in workers comp cases or otherwise. While there is a possibility of Maryland workers comp insurers resisting payments, the Workers Comp Commission will have the ultimate decision. Given the cost of opiod prescriptions, as well as the potential financial exposure to workers comp insurers if addiction occurs, it may be to the benefit of insurers to authorize and pay for medicinal marijuana. At some point workers compensation attorneys will likely be advocating for their clients in an effort to obtain prescription marijuana.
Recent developments dealing with New Jersey’s medicinal marijuana laws may be a preclude as to what is to come in Maryland. New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana law was created in 2014 like Maryland’s. A New Jersey workers compensation Judge recently issues an opinion indicating that under New Jersey law the injured worker’s marijuana will be paid for by workers comp. See New Jersey case of Admin judge
Once Maryland Workers Compensation insurers are liable to pay for medicinal marijuana:
Many injured workers will likely qualify for use of the substance to relieve pain. Most importantly, those who suffer from chronic, or disabling pain will be able to receive marijuana legally. For a physician to prescribe medicinal marijuana he or she must believe the benefits of the marijuana outweigh the health risks to the patient.
What conditions are covered under the Maryland Medical Cannabis law?
The Maryland Medical Cannabis law (MMCL) states the Cannabis Commission is encouraged to approve applications for medicinal marijuana when the condition is a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that results in hospice care or receiving palliative care. The law goes on to indicate that such conditions and disorders such as cachexia, anorexia, wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms.
The most consequential disability that would be covered is “any other condition that is severe and for which other medical treatments have been ineffective if the symptoms reasonably can be expected to be relieved by the medical use of cannabis.” §13-3304 of the Health General Article. This section of the law seems to be the most consequential because it provides a fair amount of discretion to the prescribing physician.
When will patients be able to purchase medical marijuana?
It is not clear when patients will be able to make their first purchase and for now there seems to be a number of deadlines that must first be met by the Cannabis Commission, dispensaries, and growers.
Physicians are now able to register to become a certifying physician. Registration is necessary in order for the physician to prescribe marijuana. Physician are now able to register on the Cannabis Commission website. Patients must also register to become eligible for medicinal use however this registration is not yet accessible. The Cannabis Commissions’ goal is to open registration for patients during the first quarter of 2017.
In December 2016 the first phase of the Dispensary and Grower application was concluded with the approval of 102 dispensary licenses. These Dispensaries will have 365 days to get the business up and running. The Dispensaries will undergo criminal background investigations, secure finances, construct facilities, obtain zoning approvals, and undergo compliance investigations.
Just based on the 365 day deadline, it is possible medical marijuana would not be available until the end of December 2017. Should the dispensaries fail to meet this deadline it could be longer.
Maryland Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
Dispensary licenses are valid for 4 years and renewal licenses for 2 years. Necessarily, the Cannabis Commission will require quarterly reports from each dispensary, may impost penalties and rescind licenses of dispensaries that fail to meet their licensing standards.
When functional, dispensaries will be licensed to sell cannabis, cannabis food, cannabis drinks (tinctures), cannabis sprays, oils, ointments, and related supplies.
Some Criminal Restrictions may still apply to those who are legally prescribed medicinal marijuana
While the Maryland Medical Cannabis law does provide exemption from arrest, prosecution, or penalty there remains some criminal culpability for medicinal users. Exemption will only apply to those who have a 30 day supply or more than a 30 day supply if the prescribing physician indicated the amount inadequate to treat the condition.
Patients will continue to be criminally responsible if:
- operating a boat, motor vehicle, aircraft, while under the influence.
- Smoking marijuana in a public place
- Smoking marijuana in a motor vehicle
- Smoking marijuana in a rented facility from a landlord
- Smoking marijuana on property that is subject to a policy that prohibits smoking marijuana
Marijuana may still be vaporized in these facilities.