The New Jersey Assembly Appropriations Committee last week advanced a bill that would require workers’ compensation and personal injury protection auto insurance benefits to cover medical cannabis under certain circumstances, NJ.com reports. The measure would cover individuals enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program.
Alison Cooper, vice president for state affairs for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, said during last Monday’s hearing that the “biggest concern” stemming from the proposal for the insurance industry “is that it puts insurers in a very difficult position by potentially forcing them to violate federal law.” She said that lawmakers should delay advancing the bill until Congress resolves conflicts between federal and state law concerning cannabis.
New Jersey courts have ruled on three separate cases in favor of workers’ comp covering medical cannabis for an injured worker. In 2018, Workers’ Compensation Judge Lionel Simon ruled that Freehold Township must pay for medical cannabis treatment for an injured worker. In that case, Simon said the plaintiff was at risk of getting addicted to opioids if the insurer was not forced to cover medical cannabis, which the judge called “safer,” “less addictive,” and “a better treatment for pain.” In 2017, Administrative Law Judge Ingrid L. French ruled that a private business’ workers’ compensation insurance must pay for an injured worker’s medical cannabis because it is “reasonable and necessary” to treat the worker’s ongoing pain, according to a review of the case by law firm Scarinci Hollenbeck.
The bill still requires approval by both legislative chambers and the governor.
New Jersey voters will decide during the General Election whether to legalize cannabis use for adults.