A Hearing Officer from the Maine Workers’ Compensation Board issued what is sure to be the first in a long line of decisions relating to the compensability of medical marijuana. In the case of Crandall v. University of Maine System, Hearing Officer Elizabeth Elwin applied DOJ guidelines to determine whether, by paying for medical marijuana, the employer and insurer could be subject to criminal prosecution and ultimately ordered them to pay for Mr. Crandall’s medical marijuana.
After determining that Mr. Crandall’s medical marijuana use was having a positive impact on his shoulder injury management, the hearing officer reviewed a list of “enforcement priorities” issued to federal prosecutors by the Department of Justice to assess the whether or not the DOJ was likely to prosecute an insurer for, in effect, buying marijuana. Elwin pointed out that the DOJ has determined that unless the conduct in question implicates one or more of these “priorities”, it is not worth their resources to pursue prosecution, especially when it comes to seriously ill individuals and their caregivers.
The DOJ’s priorities include the prevention of distribution to minors, diversion of marijuana from a state where it is legal to where it is not, violence in cultivation and distribution, and drugged driving. The Hearing Officer ultimately found that none of the priorities were implicated in the case and the employer/insurer was unlikely to be prosecuted for issuing payment.
It is virtually guaranteed that this case will make its way to the Board’s Appellate Division, and very possibly the Supreme Judicial Court. In the meantime, other hearing officers and parties across the state have a well thought out decision from which to compare their cases. You can read the full decision here.