Is it legal? Is it safe?

Do I have to pay for it?

You’d think we would have figured those questions out by now. But answers about cannabis—AKA marijuana, pot, weed, and dozens of other names—remain elusive. For years, the legal status, medical efficacy, and impact of cannabis have confounded workplace safety, risk management, and workers’ comp professionals.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy being confounded. Unfortunately, it seems, we’ll have to get used to being left in a haze—no pun intended.

As cannabis gains in legalization and acceptance at the state level, it continues to hold onto its status as federally-classified Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” At the same time, few rigorous studies can support popular (positive and negative) beliefs about the substance.

All of which can make it difficult to determine if a worker using cannabis for medical reasons should have their costs covered or reimbursed.

To help employers and workers comp professionals navigate the Wild West of weed, Risk & Insurance magazine recently published some top takeaways from a doctor. According to Broadspire’s Marcos Iglesias, author of “Marijuana: A Medical Perspective”

  1. Cannabis isn’t 100% safe: “Cannabis can cause a temporary impairment of memory, judgment, decision making, reaction time and time-space recognition.”
  2. Cannabis may be linked to increased risk of driving accidents: “Colorado, Oregon and Washington saw collision claim frequencies rise by 3% … Fatal crashes involving cannabis doubled after legalization in Washington state (8 to 17%).”
  3. Cannabis hasn’t proven to be more effective than other medical interventions in many cases: “The public perception of the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of cannabis-based medicines in pain management and palliative medicine conflicts with the findings of systematic reviews and prospective observational studies conducted according to the standards of evidence-based medicine.”

Read “A Doctor’s Take: What Workers’ Compensation Pros Should Know About Marijuana.”

For Dr. Iglesias’ full paper, click here.

Will 2020 see breakthroughs in terms of cannabis science and federal legal status? Only time will tell. Until then, you can find more answers about cannabis in the workplace on the KPA blog.


TOBY GRAHAMToby Graham manages the marketing communications team at KPA. She’s on a quest to help people tell clear, fun stories that their audience can relate to.