Insurance Information Institute chief actuary James Lynch reports from last week’s Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) conference:
I shock no one, I hope, by saying the nation’s attitude toward marijuana has loosened. More than half the states allow marijuana use, either as a medicine or just for fun. The federal government still forbids its use.
It’s a tough spot for insurers. Auto insurers worry that high drivers will cause auto accidents. Workers compensation workers are concerned that high employees will cause work accidents. Insurers want to obey the law, but federal law conflicts with the law in most states.
There are also questions about using marijuana to treat pain, as an alternative to opioids.
Not surprising that weed was the topic of conversation several times at last week’s WCRI conference in Boston.
Alex Swedlow of the California Workers Compensation Institute noted the following:
- Six states require workers comp insurers to reimburse injured workers who use medical marijuana: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and New Mexico.
- Six states forbid insurers from reimbursing for medical marijuana: Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Montana, Oregon and Vermont.
- The federal laws against marijuana mean it is illegal to use the banking system to purchase marijuana. So an insurer can’t write a check against to pay for the drug. They use cash.
Dr. Dean Hashimoto of the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents provided these facts. They are taken from a National Academy of Sciences report published in January, which is itself a summary of all research on the issue:
- There is conclusive evidence or substantial evidence that marijuana:
- Improves the lot of adults in chronic pain.
- Increases the risk of motor vehicle crashes.
- Increases the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses.
- There is moderate support suggesting that marijuana:
- Improves short-term sleep outcomes for people with fibromyalgia or chronic pain.
- Increases impairment of learning, memory and attention span.
- Increases dependence on alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs.
- It is not possible to determine whether marijuana use is statistically correlated with occupational injuries.
The California WC report is here www.cwci.org/document.php?file=3090.pdf. The National Academy of Sciences report is here.