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Updates on Medical Marijuana in the Sunshine State and How it May Affect Workers’ Compensation Claims in the Future


The law regarding marijuana continues to be a topic of debate at both the federal level and for each individual state. To date, recreational use remains illegal at both the federal level and in the state of Florida. However, the Sunshine State is one of the states that has taken a different approach in recent years to marijuana when it is used in a different context. While marijuana has been recognized by both Florida legislators and residents as having health benefits, this has also created an outstanding set of questions for employees who become injured while working.

What is the Legal Update Concerning Medical Marijuana?

The Florida Legislature has passed and signed into law CS/CS/CS/SB182, an update to the statute enacted in 2017 that legalized medical marijuana in the form of oils and baked goods for specified categories of patients. Now patients will also be able to obtain treatment in the form of smokable medical marijuana.

Why is This Update Relevant in 2019?

Because Floridians are pursuing medical marijuana in record numbers. After the Florida Department of Health reportedly refused to release information concerning the number of medical marijuana patients, NBC Miami 6 News conducted its own investigation which indicates that about 3,000 new patients per week are signing up for medical marijuana in Florida. As of March there were more than 180,000 people who have registered in the state to take the drug. And around 11,796 people who are certified to take the drug are right here in Miami-Dade County.

How Have Other States Addressed Medical Marijuana and Workers’ Compensation?

The Florida legislature has not yet faced many questions that will likely be arising in the future. Other states have taken very different approaches to medical marijuana and workers’ compensation. For example:

  • In the 2014 case of Vialpando v. Ben’s Auto, a judge in New Mexico determined that the employer in question and its insurance carrier had to reimburse the employee for costs associated with the purchase of medical marijuana.
  • In contrast, in the 2018 case of Hall v. Safelite Group, Inc., a judge in Vermont concluded that an employer and its insurance carrier could not be compelled to pay for a substance that is illegal under federal law.

What Questions May Arise Regarding Workers’ Compensation Claims in Florida in the Future?

One important question for Floridians will be the same one courts in some other states have adjudicated – whether an employer and its insurance carrier must provide marijuana for an injured worker. A related subset of that question will be whether an employer and its carrier might be compelled to reimburse an injured Florida worker for medical marijuana, as well as whether workplace accommodations will eventually apply. Exactly how medical marijuana laws will impact workers in the Sunshine State is something that we will all witness in the future.

Have You Suffered an Injury While Working?

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury while working and you are struggling to understand how medical marijuana may affect your claim, we can help. The Miami workers’ compensation attorneys at Payer & Associates have significant experience helping people like you in complex and new areas of law. Begin by contacting us today to schedule a free consultation.


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