November 17, 2015 Article

Maine Workers' Compensation Board Appellate Division to Rule on Compensability of Medical Marijuana

In December 2015 the Workers’ Compensation Board Appellate Division will hear oral argument in Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Company, WCB No. 89-01-36-55 (March 16, 2015), a case in which the WCB found the cost of medical marijuana compensable. Ignoring the classification of marijuana under federal law as an illegal drug, the Hearing Officer found it significant that medical marijuana is, “authorized by state law and tolerated by federal law enforcement.” The Hearing Officer dismissed the argument that Maine law protects “private health insurers” from being required to pay for medical marijuana, by finding that workers’ compensation insurers “are not private health insurers, so this statute does not apply .”

In a more recent case, Noll v. LePage Bakeries, Inc., WCB No. 12-003547B (September 18, 2015), the Hearing Officer denied an employee’s petition seeking payment for medical marijuana, finding that the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act provision that the statute may not be construed to require a “. . . private health insurer to reimburse a person for costs associated with the medical use of marijuana…,” applies to shield a worker’s compensation insurer from responsibility to pay for medical marijuana. The Hearing Officer reasoned that because a workers’ compensation insurer is required to pay work injury related medical bills, it qualifies as a “private health insurer” under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act.

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