Litigation

DOES WORKERS’ COMPENSATION HAVE TO PAY FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA?

Gaetan H. Bourgoin worked as a paper machine laborer when he sustained a work-related back injury that resulted in his total disability. As a result of the injury, Bourgoin suffered from severe chronic pain syndrome and consulted with a number of pain management specialists in an attempt to treat the pain.  Due to  various side effects of his continued use of opioids, and on the recommendation of his primary care physician, Bourgoin stopped using narcotic medications and obtained a medical marijuana certification under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act (MMUMA) to manage his pain.

The employer challenged the Workers’ Compensation Board’s order that the employer pay for Bourgoin’s medical marijuana on the ground that such an order was barred by the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), even if the employee’s use of medical marijuana was permitted by the MMUMA.

The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine determined that, although the Maine Legislature’s enactment of MMUMA exempted qualifying patients like Bourgoin from state prosecution that could have arisen from the medical use of marijuana, the Maine Legislature did not have the power to change or restrict the application of federal law that positively conflicted with state law.   As invoked against the employer, the MMUMA required what the CSA forbid – possession and use of marijuana. Had the employer reimbursed the employee for the cost of medical marijuana, the employer could have been subject to penalties for aiding and abetting Bourgoin in violation of the CSA.  Therefore, the Board erred in ordering that the employer reimburse the employee for the cost of medical marijuana.

 Lexis Advanced subscribers can access the full opinion at:  Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co., LLC, 2018 ME 77, 2018 Me. LEXIS 79, 2018 WL 2976309

 

Author:  Amy Cillie, Lexis-Nexis Case Law Editor

 

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