New Jersey: Supreme Court Affirms Employer Must Reimburse Worker for Medical Cannabis Expenses

Trenton, NJ: Justices on the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously affirmed a lower court ruling determining that an employee is eligible to have costs related to the medical use of cannabis reimbursed by his or her employer. An amicus brief was filed in the case on behalf of NORML by Alan Silber and Dillon McGuire of the law firm PashmanStein.

Justices rejected the contention that cannabis is ineligible for reimbursement under the states’ workers’ compensation laws because it is illegal federally. The Court ruled that Congress’ decision to prohibit the Justice Department from interfering in states with medical cannabis access laws permits state and federal marijuana laws to “coexist” absent any “positive conflict.” 

The Court further determined that the plaintiff’s use of medical cannabis was “reasonable and necessary,” and rejected the employer’s claim that providing financial reimbursement would subject it to potential criminal liability.

“We agree with the compensation court and Appellate Division that exempting workers’ compensation insurance carriers from responsibility for workers’ medical marijuana costs would be antithetical to the legislature’s express findings in the Compassionate Use Act and the traditional broad, liberal application of New Jersey’s workers’ compensation scheme,” the court opined.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a similar ruling last year, as have lower courts in several other states, including Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, and New Mexico. By contrast, courts in Delaware and Massachusetts have issued contrary rulings.