The United States Supreme Court is asking for input from the fourth-highest-ranking official in the Department of Justice to decide if medical cannabis should be reimbursed under workers’ compensation insurance, given the plant’s federally illegal status.
On Friday, DOJ lawyers discussed a pair of cases related to Minnesota employees who appealed a decision by their state’s high court denying them coverage for medical cannabis expenses after being injured on the job.
In October, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals passed their appeal, but Minnesota’s supreme court reversed it because of cannabis’s illegality at the federal level.
Both the cases were brought to federal court. DOJ lawyers concluded the cases are still pending, and need input from the Biden Administration’s Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar.
“The solicitor general is invited to file briefs in these cases expressing the views of the United States,” reads an entry next to both cases in the Supreme Court’s list of pending cases.
The first case involves Susan Musta, who was injured at her workplace, a dental center. She filed a Supreme Court petition in November after Minnesota judges determined she wouldn’t be reimbursed.
Activist group Empire State NORML, along with the New York City Cannabis Industry Association and the Hudson Valley Cannabis Industry Association, urged the court to look into the case via an amici curiae, a friend-of-the-court brief from a third party that assists with information, expertise and insight.
The second case involves Daniel Bierbach, who works at an all-terrain vehicle company. After his appeal was denied, he submitted a petition to review the decision by the state’s lower court. Bierbach argued an employer doesn’t need to possess, manufacture or distribute the cannabis products, but only provide compensation. So, according to him, it wouldn’t be a violation of the Controlled Substances Act.
Last May, a New Jersey appeals court ruled that Pepsi Bottling Co. (Nasdaq: PEP) had to reimburse a former employee for medical cannabis costs related to his work-related back injury.
In October, New Hampshire’s high court also ruled out that medical cannabis should be reimbursed despite federal prohibition.
Federal cannabis prohibition doesn’t make much sense anymore, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said in a statement last June, and the federal government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana.
“This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary.”