Now that Missouri has legalized recreational marijuana, it raises an important question for employees in the state: If you get hurt on the job while high on marijuana, can you still recover workers’ compensation?
The answer is sometimes, but you may find the claims process to be more difficult than if you were sober.
Missouri Legalizes Recreational Marijuana
One of the issues on yesterday’s ballot in Missouri was Amendment 3. This initiative aimed to change Missouri’s Constitution to legalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21, set a sales tax on weed, and expunge certain criminal records related to drug use.
While ballots are still being counted, it is clear that Amendment 3 will pass with around 53 percent of the vote, making Missouri the 21st state to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Workers’ Compensation Claims Can Be Barred if Injuries Were Caused By Your Impairment
If you are a covered employee and you get hurt at work, you are entitled to workers’ compensation. This compensation covers your medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages.
However, if you got hurt because you were impaired by drugs or alcohol, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer can deny your claim for compensation.
It is important to remember that the workers’ compensation system relies on for-profit insurance companies. They are the ones that pay out your benefits. If they can find a way to justifiably refuse to pay, they will take it.
This is why many employers demand a blood, drug, or breath test after a workplace accident. Employers are often required to take this step by their workers’ compensation insurance company.
Marijuana-Based Denials Can Be Complex
While workers’ compensation insurers may be eager to deny a claim by someone who was hurt while high on weed, they can only do it if you were actually high at the time of the incident, and your impairment caused your injuries.
Unlike with alcohol, which has a legal limit of 0.08 percent, there is no set standard for how much marijuana presumptively puts you under the influence. Additionally, there is still no good way to test for marijuana impairment: While breath or blood tests reveal alcohol content in the bloodstream and that amount reflects how impairing it is, drug testing only detects how much THC – the hallucinogenic compound in marijuana – is in your system. THC, however, can stay in your system for weeks, long after it has stopped impairing you. This makes it very difficult to ascertain if you were actually under the influence of marijuana at the time of your workplace injury.
Even if you were actually high, a denial of workers’ compensation is only justified if your impairment caused your injuries. If you got hurt and it had nothing to do with the symptoms of your marijuana, you should still receive benefits.
Finally, if it was marijuana that you took for medical reasons, rather than recreationally, denying your claim for workers’ compensation can begin to infringe on your rights outside the workplace.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph, Missouri
If you get hurt at work and marijuana was detected in a drug test, it can complicate your workers’ compensation claim, even after it has been legalized in the state. If your claim has been denied, you have legal recourse. The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office represent hurt workers in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, and the rest of western Missouri. Contact them online or call them at (816) 875-9373 for help getting the compensation you need and deserve.