SCOTUS: Justices Decline to Weigh in on Whether Medical Cannabis Costs Can Be Reimbursed by Employers

Washington, DC: Justices on the US Supreme Court have declined to weigh in on the issue of whether employees can be reimbursed for their medical marijuana-related costs through their workers’ compensation insurance plans.

Litigants sought the Court’s intervention following divergent opinions from several state supreme courts. Empire State NORML and two other groups – the New York City Cannabis Industry Association and the Hudson Valley Cannabis Industry – had filed a friend-of-the-court (amicusbrief urging justices to take the case and to use it as an opportunity to settle broader conflicts between state and federal marijuana laws.

The denial of certiorari indicates that most justices did not believe that the lower court decisions merited review by the high court.

David C. Holland, Esq, the Executive and Legal Director of Empire State NORML and the author of the brief said: “By failing to take up the case, SCOTUS only further exacerbated the split between the highest state courts as it continues to evade the fundamental question with regard to cannabis’ medical validity, a key factor in the Schedule I designation. Empire State NORML and the New York and Hudson Valley Cannabis Industry Associations will continue to advocate for those cases that will eventually bring resolution to the issue once and for all.”

In 2021, courts in three separate states upheld employees’ ability to be financially reimbursed for their use of medical cannabis, while the court in another state ruled against the issue. 

Currently, five states — Connecticut, New HampshireNew Jersey, New Mexico, and New York – explicitly allow for employees to have their medical cannabis expenses reimbursed. By contrast, seven states expressly prohibit workers’ compensation insurance from reimbursing medical marijuana-related costs: Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Florida, North Dakota, Ohio, and Washington.

In all other jurisdictions, the law is either silent on the issue or states that insurers are “not required” to reimburse employees who are injured on the job for the costs related to their use of medical cannabis.

Additional information on marijuana and workplace issues is available from NORML’s fact sheet, ‘Marijuana Legalization and Impact on the Workplace.’