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Burzichelli, Conaway & Downey Bill to Require Worker’s Compensation and PIPs to Cover Medical Marijuana Treatment Clears Assembly Panel

Ensuring healthcare coverage for patients choosing medical marijuana treatment, legislation requiring workers’ compensation, and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage for the costs associated with the medical use of cannabis under certain circumstances was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Monday.

The bill (A-1708) would provide that personal injury protection automobile insurance benefits and workers’ compensation benefits must include coverage for costs associated with the medical use of cannabis, provided that the insured or the employee is a qualifying patient authorized for the medical use of cannabis under the “Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act,” P.L.2009, c.307 (C.24:6I-1 et al).

The sponsors of the legislation, Assembly members John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem), Herb Conaway (D-Burlington) and Joann Downey (D-Monmouth), issued the following joint statement:

“Many workers’ compensation insurance companies and PIPs are still hesitant to cover medical cannabis or have an outright policy of denying it. People injured and receiving coverage through PIP or worker’s comp can come away from a doctor’s appointment with a prescription for medical marijuana; however, it is not definite that their healthcare plan will cover it or reimburse them for the costs.

 “The dispensing of medical cannabis is, in part, considered an important piece in the national effort to combat the opioid crisis. Medical cannabis is seen as an effective pain treatment option that is cheaper, less addictive than opioids, and often preferred to prescribe to patients over opioids. 

“A patient and their doctor should have every option available to make the best decisions for their care; and, medical cannabis as an option growing in demand, health insurance plans –including worker’s comp and PIP—should cover its costs too.”

On January 13, 2020, the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled in favor of a medical marijuana patient and ordered his former employer to reimburse him for his medical marijuana expenses in the case of Hager v M&K Construction, 2020 WL 218390 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Jan 13, 2020).

The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.