Can You Still Get Workers Comp If You Smoke Weed?

If you are injured on the job and attempt to collect workers compensation, many factors come into play. One of the most important involves if you were under the influence of marijuana when your injury occurred. While marijuana use has been legalized in states such as California and Colorado, in most situations federal law will win out over state law. However, if you smoke weed and are injured on the job, filing a workers comp claim may present many challenges.

Employer Discretion

If you smoke weed, remember that even if state law makes recreational or medical marijuana use legal, your employer will have the ultimate say regarding your worker’s comp claim. For example, although medical marijuana usage has been legal in California since 1996 and in Colorado since 2000, that doesn’t always mean it exempts employees who use it for medicinal purposes from being denied workers compensation. In fact, being under the influence can be a reason workers comp claims get denied.

Workers Comp and Drug Tests

If you are injured on the job, your employer will likely require you to take a drug test. Since they have the legal right to ask this of you, refusing to take the test will be a quick way to ensure your claim is denied. Also, be aware that the THC found in marijuana can stay in your bloodstream up to 40 days, so even if you haven’t smoked weed in a while, it may still show up in your blood or urine.

Court Rulings

Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act protects employees with serious medical conditions from discrimination, it does not overrule the federal government ban on marijuana usage. An example of this played out in Colorado, where a quadriplegic employee of DISH Network was fired after a positive drug test, even though he legally used marijuana to control back spasms. Despite thinking he was protected under the state’s Medical Marijuana Amendment, the court ruled against him, saying his use of marijuana was not a lawful activity based on the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Since there are so many variables involved in workers comp claims, marijuana usage on the job is a risky proposition at best. Because of this, if your drug test is positive, chances are your employer will deny your claim. However, since numerous attorneys specialize in workers comp claims, it’s still possible you could win your case.


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