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Will CA deny workers' compensation over legal marijuana use?

Workers' compensation exists to protect workers in the United States from losing their income and health due to a workplace accident or work-caused illness. In order to prevent fraud or abuse of the system, certain rules and regulations are in place to govern what kind of injuries deserve claims, how long people have to make claims and what, if any, circumstances would preclude a person from collecting on a claim.

For a long time, a positive drug test for marijuana could result in denial of a workers' compensation claim, even if the individual in question wasn't using it at work.

With legalization of recreational marijuana use for adults, California is pressing into new territory. Workers can safely and legally use marijuana for medical or personal reasons at home. However, if workers who have legally used marijuana suffer an injury while on the job, they may worry about the impact it could have on their workers' compensation claim.

Legal marijuana use is a legally gray area

Many issues, from social media posts to how you spend your time off of work can impact your workers' compensation claim. The more severe your injury and larger the claim, the more likely it is that your employer will retain the services of an investigative company to try to undermine or disprove your claim. Some companies will immediately try to contest a claim for workers' compensation if you test positive for marijuana. It doesn't matter if you only use it at home and are complying with either Proposition 64 or the state's medical marijuana law.

Unfortunately, because marijuana's active ingredients are fat soluble and not water soluble, a person can test positive for several weeks or even several months after using marijuana. A positive test does not indicate that you were using marijuana when your injury occurred at work, only that you have used it in the recent past. If you worry about your personal use of marijuana impacting your workers' compensation claim, your best option is to contact an experienced workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible.

California is still figuring out the rules for legal marijuana

Given that voters just decided to legalize marijuana in November of 2016, it should come as little surprise that all of the changes to state laws and policies are still in process at this point. The California Workers' Compensation Institute has issued a report about the potential impact of legal and medical marijuana on workers' compensation claims, but it does little to clear up the situation. Theoretically, workers' compensation policy will adjust and change when individual claims and cases require the updates. Until precedent is set and policy decided, marijuana use could impact your claim.

The potential for a claim denial due to legal personal marijuana use is one of many reasons why you want to partner with an experienced workers' compensation attorney for your claim. He or she can help you in a number of ways, from exploring legal options to helping ensure you meet critical filing deadlines.

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