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Will Recreational Marijuana Use Disqualify Me from Workers' Comp Benefits

In California, the legalization of recreational marijuana has brought about various legal questions and implications, especially in areas such as workers' compensation. If you were injured on the job and are seeking workers' compensation benefits, you might be concerned about whether your recreational marijuana use could affect your eligibility.

Let's take a closer look into this topic to understand the nuances and legal considerations involved.

Workers' Compensation Eligibility & Marijuana Use

Workers' compensation is a form of insurance that provides medical benefits and wage replacement to employees who are injured or become ill on the job. In California, most employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance to cover their employees in case of workplace injuries or illnesses.

Employees who were injured at work must demonstrate the following to claim and obtain workers' compensation benefits:

  • The injury or illness occurred while performing job-related duties.
  • The employee is an eligible worker, meaning they are classified as an employee rather than an independent contractor.
  • The injury or illness is not the result of the employee's willful misconduct or intoxication.

The last point is important because it means employees who were intoxicated by marijuana at work may be found ineligible for workers’ comp benefits. The recreational use of cannabis doesn’t necessarily have to have happened at work, either. Someone who comes to work while still intoxicated from marijuana use on their own time could put a workers’ comp claim at risk.

The Impact of Marijuana Use on Workers' Comp Claims

The question of whether recreational marijuana use will disqualify an individual from receiving workers' compensation benefits in California is complex and largely depends on the specific circumstances of each case.

Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Intoxication defense: Employers and workers' compensation insurers may attempt to deny benefits by arguing that the employee was intoxicated at the time of the injury due to marijuana use. However, proving intoxication can be challenging, as mere evidence of marijuana use may not be sufficient to establish impairment at the time of the incident.
  • Causal relationship: Regardless of whether the employee was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the injury, the primary consideration in workers' compensation claims is often whether the injury arose out of and in the course of employment. If the injury occurred while the employee was performing job-related duties, the fact of marijuana use alone may not be enough to disqualify them from benefits.
  • Medical marijuana use: In some cases, individuals may be using marijuana for medicinal purposes under California's medical marijuana laws. Employers and insurers must consider the potential impact of medical marijuana use on the employee's ability to perform job duties and whether any accommodations can be made.
  • Legalization and public policy: With the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, there is a growing recognition of the need to balance public policy considerations with the rights of employees. Courts may be inclined to interpret workers' compensation laws in a manner that reflects evolving attitudes toward marijuana use.

Seek Legal Guidance

If you were injured on the job and are concerned about how your recreational marijuana use may affect your workers' compensation claim, it is essential to seek guidance from a qualified attorney who can assist in this matter. An experienced attorney can assess the specific facts of your case, advise you on your rights and obligations, and advocate on your behalf to ensure that you receive the benefits to which you are entitled.

Our workers’ comp lawyers at Smolich and Smolich can provide the legal support you need during this time. Contact us now to request an initial consultation.