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In Hager v. M & K Construction, our Supreme Court considered for the first time legal issues arising out of the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act. Hager was injured on the job, and his doctor prescribed medical cannabis for pain management as a superior alternative to opioids. Employer M&K objected to paying for it on several statutory grounds under both the Honig Act and the Workers Compensation Act. A unanimous court held, based on plain statutory language, that workers compensation payments did not fall within the Honig Act’s provision exempting either private or government health insurers from paying for medical cannabis. It also held, based on medical testimony, that cannabis was a “reasonable and necessary” medical treatment under the Workers Compensation Act for chronic pain from Hager’s injury, indeed that the risks were less than opioids.

M&K had one final argument—that the Honig Act was preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act, under which marijuana is a Schedule I controlled drug that cannot be prescribed for medical use, and that paying for Hager’s cannabis exposed it to criminal liability under the CSA. Based on riders to the past seven annual Department of Justice appropriation acts, the court concluded that Congress had suspended the application of the CSA to state medical cannabis program and that there is no conflict between state and federal law. It also concluded that M&K could not be criminally liable under the federal law because it was paying for its employee’s cannabis involuntarily, by court order.

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