Maine High Court Rules Employers Do Not Have to Cover Medical Marijuana for Employees

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A man who was totally disabled working at Twin Rivers Paper Co. in Madawaska, Maine was denied compensation for his medical marijuana this week. In a 5-2 vote, Maine’s highest court ruled that the company should not be forced to pay for the medical marijuana due to the fact that it is still illegal according to federal law. Marijuana is still considered to be a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD. This is the highest risk drug category, reserved for substances that are too unsafe to test on humans, have no medicinal value and are highly addictive.

The Classification of Cannabis in the U.S.

maine high court rules employers do not have to cover medical marijuana in workers comp cases
The Maine high court ruled employers do not have to cover medical marijuana in workers comp cases.

The plant is currently legal for medical use in 29 states and the most recent polls reveal that 83 percent of the country believes it should be legal for medical use. Official government funded research into its medicinal value has been blocked by the Department of Justice, led by long time prohibitionist Jeff Sessions. Despite the medical research proving its value by the highest scientific institutions in the world and the anecdotal evidence that it has the ability to treat a wide variety of disorders such as cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, autism, PTSD, glaucoma, sciatica and chronic pain, it is still regarded as an illegal substance according to federal law.

Choosing Medical Cannabis Over Opioids

“A person’s right to use medical marijuana cannot be converted into a sword that would require another party, such as Twin Rivers, to engage in conduct that would violate the (Controlled Substances Act),” the Maine justices wrote. It’s for this reason Gaetan Bourgoin was denied compensation for his medication.

Bourgoin’s medical marijuana costs him $400 a month. His initial prescription was to take opioids, which cost approximately six times more that the medical marijuana at around $2400 a month. The side effect from the opioids left Bourgoin unable to cope with life and his pain was still not treated by the drugs. This is a common claim by patients on opioids which is highly addictive and costs thousands of lives a year from accidental overdose. Marijuana is not addictive, has never been the cause of overdose or death and has been reportedly more effective at treating pain. For this reason, Bourgoin’s doctor recommended it and the Maine Workers’ Compensation Board sided with Bourgoin, forcing Twin Rivers Paper Co. to pay for Bourgoin’s medication. Twin Rivers, unhappy with this, took the matter to court in order to overturn the ruling.

Conflict in the Court

judges not all in agreeance on the ruling against medical marijuana claim
The judges were not all in agreeance on the ruling against the medical marijuana claim.

There was a lengthy dissent in the courthouse and not all Justices agreed with the final ruling. Justice Joseph M. Jabar and Justice Donald G. Alexander both stated that they did not see it as a conflict with federal law given that the medication was being recommended by Bourgoin’s doctor as the safest form of legal treatment within the state.

“The result of the court’s opinion today is to deprive Bourgoin of reimbursement for the medication that has finally given him relief from his chronic pain and may have placed Bourgoin’s life at risk,” Alexander stated.

Nonetheless, the ruling denied the medication in favor of supporting federal law.

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