Pennsylvania court rules medical cannabis costs can be reimbursed

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Medical cannabis costs incurred in Pennsylvania as a result of work-related injuries are eligible for reimbursement, a state court ruled.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court sided with the plaintiffs on Friday in two separate cases, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

In each case, the plaintiff’s “claims were denied and the appeals board upheld those denials,” the newspaper reported, “but the Commonwealth Court reversed the appeals boards’ decisions.”

In one case, the court ruled that the state Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board erred in allowing Firestone Tire & Rubber to deny reimbursement for medical marijuana costs for the plaintiff, Paul Sheetz.

Sheetz started using medical marijuana to treat chronic pain from a 1977 work injury and to ween off decades of prescribed opioid use, according to court documents and media reports.

He died before the Commonwealth Court ruled on his case, so Sheetz’s estate continued his court fight.

Firestone had argued that requiring MMJ reimbursements violated federal law.

But the Commonwealth Court ruled that reimbursement is not a federal crime because insurers are not prescribing it themselves.

In the second case, Edward Appel v. GWC Warranty Corp., the plaintiff was prescribed opioids after being injured on the job in 2006.

Appel began using medical marijuana in early 2018 and applied in October of that year for workers comp to pay for his MMJ.

According to the Post-Gazette, the Commonwealth Court pointed out in both rulings that Pennsylvania’s MMJ statute did not require insurance firms to cover the cost of MMJ.

However, the court said, the law does say that Pennsylvania’s MMJ patients shouldn’t be “denied any rights for lawful use of medical marijuana.”