Supreme Court passes on hygienist's medical marijuana case

2019 08 08 23 50 6818 Cannabis Marijuana 400

The U.S. Supreme Court will not review decisions denying workers' compensation reimbursement for medical marijuana prescribed for job-related injuries, including a case involving a Minnesota dental hygienist.

On June 21, the highest U.S. court denied petitions to review cases from dental hygienist Susan Musta, who was injured while working at Mendota Heights Dental Center in Minnesota, and an all-terrain vehicle company employee who also was injured on the job, according to court records.

In November 2021, Musta petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review her case after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against workers' compensation reimbursement for medical marijuana, stating it would place the dental center at risk of aiding and abetting unlawful possession of the substance. The state supreme court's ruling overturned two lower state court rulings.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to not review the cases falls in line with the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) request that it deny their petitions. In its request, the DOJ cited that the U.S. Controlled Substances Act (CSA) preempts Minnesota's laws and that marijuana currently has no accepted medical use.

Since no further action is being taken, future cases involving employees who file workers' compensation claims for medical marijuana reimbursement could be split in terms of who ends up paying. State supreme courts in New Jersey and New Hampshire have ruled the CSA doesn't preempt their workers' compensation laws. However, like Minnesota, Maine's high court reached the opposite conclusion.

In 2003, Musta injured her cervical spine when she tried to catch a falling elderly patient at the Mendota Heights Dental Center. Despite surgery and medication, Musta spent 16 years in pain until she was approved for Minnesota's medical marijuana program.

When Musta sought reimbursement for the cost of the marijuana from her employer via its workers' compensation insurance company, Hartford Insurance Group, they asserted that the CSA preempted an order requiring repayment for the substance. This led Musta to file a claim against Mendota Heights Dental Center and Hartford. Lower state courts ruled that she should be reimbursed for the cost of the marijuana, but the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned that ruling.

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