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Is medical marijuana allowed in New York as workers' comp treatment?

Attitudes regarding marijuana are undergoing a major shift in the United States, especially in the context of using marijuana for medical purposes. New York state is at the forefront of the changes.

Step one occurred in 2014 with passage of the Compassionate Care Act, which allows registered medical providers to recommend medical marijuana for patients certified as having certain conditions. In 2017, New York lawmakers added chronic pain to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana is allowed. 

By the end of that year, the New York Workers' Compensation Board announced it would pay for medical marijuana treatments. However, the move comes with qualifications.

For one thing, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, doctors who want certification to recommend medical products derived from cannabis must complete special training.

In addition, the revised drug formulary announced in October by the state's Workers Compensation Board does not include medical marijuana as part of the Medical Treatment Guidelines. However, the WCB says treatment approval is possible under rules controlling non-formulary drugs.

Medical marijuana requires a variance, and it must comply with DOH standards

  • Certified providers must request a variance from the board, according to the submission requirements for WCB variances.
  • The variance criteria must be met, as well as the criteria set by the NYS Department of Health.
  • Proposed treatment cannot begin until it's approved. If treatment begins prior to approval, the variance request won't be considered.

It's complicated

This much is clear: the process is complicated and highlights the value of working with an experienced workers' compensation lawyer.

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