"Grinding Through the Weeds of Ga. Marijuana Law and Workers’ Comp"

Daily Report

Thea Nanton-Persaud authored an article published in the January 30, 2023 issue of the Daily Report offering insight on emerging issues at the intersection of Georgia marijuana law and the impact of marijuana usage under today’s standards, especially as it relates to workers’ compensation claims.

In Georgia, CBD oil is legal for limited medicinal purposes, and low-level THC oil can be used for medicinal purposes for treatment of certain medical conditions. At the same time, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under federal law, making the answer to “is it legal?” particularly complicated.

While the question of what this legal framework means for Georgia workers’ compensation claims has not yet been litigated, Nanton-Persaud highlighted emerging issues as the scope of medical conditions that qualify for medical marijuana has expanded. For one, Georgia’s workers’ compensation law allows for an intoxication defense, but it includes an exception for marijuana or controlled substances prescribed by a physician, which seemingly would allow for a worker’s injury to be compensable if they can prove they were using marijuana lawfully as prescribed.

“However, the scope of illnesses where it is permissible for such a prescription to be made in Georgia is relatively narrow and tied to conditions so severe it is unlikely a person prescribed medicinal marijuana would be in the active workforce to begin with,” Nanton-Persaud said. “Nonetheless, this is something to consider if raised in response to a denial based on an intoxication defense.”

Other considerations include an employers’ ability to prohibit marijuana usage at work, even if it is for medicinal purposes, under Georgia’s Drug Free Workplace Program, which further limits a scenario where an injured worker could test positive for marijuana and be able to prevail due to medicinal usage.

“As things stand, the legalization of medicinal marijuana has had limited impact on the intoxication defense in Georgia,” Nanton-Persaud concluded. “However, if the scope of conditions for which medicinal marijuana can be prescribed continues to expand, there could be a weakening of the defense in the long term. For now, the ability to maintain a zero-tolerance policy in the workplace provides the best buffer against any type of marijuana use in the workplace, whether medicinal or otherwise.”

For the full article, please click here.

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