Medical marijuana is now legal in 36 states, causing complex issues on construction job sites. In this session at the RIMS 2019 Annual Conference and Exhibition, Matthew Rodliff, Senior Claims Manager, Complex Construction Claims at Liberty Mutual, discussed the impact this trend could have on claims outcomes in a high-risk industry.
Medical marijuana can increases a company’s level of risk.
According to the National Institute on Drug abuse, employees who tested positive for marijuana were 55 percent more likely to have industrial accidents. There is currently no way to accurately test for impairment with marijuana because impairment level does not always correlate to THC levels in the blood. Two out of every three Americans support marijuana legalization, but there is a lack of medical research on its effectiveness as a medical treatment.
Marijuana’s status as a treatment for common construction worker injuries is uncertain.
Medical marijuana can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including nerve pain and chronic pain. Construction work involves a high level of risk for workers and the general public, including operating heavy machinery, falls from height and failure to follow safety procedures. Marijuana use could exacerbate these risks. Currently, there are cases in the court system addressing the issue of medicinal marijuana in a workplace, when federal law prohibits it. Court cases in Washington and Oregon have ruled that federal law preempts state law, but a court in Massachusetts ruled that federal preemption issues did not apply as long as the employee met certain qualifications. This issue is still evolving and is far from settled.
There are three options for the future of marijuana at the federal level:
Take cannabis off Schedule I
Legalize it, but don’t tie in anti-discrimination
Legalize it and include anti-discrimination
Employers could have extra duties regarding marijuana in the future including:
Employee vs. employer fault and recovery