WCB App Div Affirms Orders to Reimburse Employee for Medical Marijuana

On August 23, 2016, the Workers' Compensation Board Appellate Division affirmed decisions by two administrative law judges granting the employees’ Petitions for Payment of Medical and Related Services and ordering the employers/insurers to reimburse the employees for the expense of medical marijuana. For your reference, the two Appellate Division decisions are Gary A. Noll v. LePage Bakers, Inc. (Decision 16-25) and Gaetan H. Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co., LLC. (Decision 16-26). The Noll case was an en banc decision of 7 of the 8 administrative law judges, rather than the normal panel of 3 judges, so the opinion is universal among them.

The judges below rejected the employers/insurers’ arguments that, although Maine law permits medical marijuana, federal law still prohibits the sale of marijuana for any reason, and that health insurers are exempt from Maine's medical marijuana law. The Appellate Division agreed with the judges that federal law did not expressly prohibit the reimbursement of expenses that the employees had requested, that the federal drug enforcement agencies have indicated a disposition to not prosecute individuals in states with medical marijuana laws, and that workers’ compensation insurers are not health insurers within the meaning of the exemption.

If you have any questions about these cases or any other cases, please let us know.

Thomas Getchell
Michael Richards
Daniel Gilligan Attorneys at Law