Back in 2015 the idea of the Cubs winning the World Series was a pipe dream. It was unimaginable that a global health pandemic could exist. And nobody thought that marijuana would be legal in Illinois. Yet here we are.
Now that we are six months in to the new marijuana laws in IL, it’s a good time to reflect on how they are impacting Illinois workers’ compensation cases. There were a lot of predictions about what would happen, but the reality is that not much has changed.
You can eat a gummy or smoke a joint and not get arrested. But if you get hurt while working, you still can be compelled to take a drug test and if you refuse you may lose your right to get benefits.
And while you can get high in your spare time, if you are high while working and it contributes to you getting injured, you won’t have a case. It’s no different than the fact that alcohol has been legal forever, but if you are drunk at work and get hurt, you’ll lose your case.
The difference with marijuana vs. alcohol is how long it stays in your system, causing a test to be positive. If that happens, under Illinois law the insurance company can deny your claim and the burden shifts to you to prove that you were not impaired when you got hurt.
The problem that has developed is that so many people are taking edibles or otherwise using marijuana in a way that leads to positive test results that insurance companies are able to, temporarily at least, not pay benefits. It’s not a huge issue in most cases, but it discourages some people from going forward. The people who are getting hurt by this are those with minor injuries. Let’s say you fall at work and hit your head. You got to the ER, get checked for a concussion and have no further medical care.
A case like that doesn’t have much settlement value. The goal is to get the bill paid so you don’t have any personal expense. But if you test positive, the insurance company won’t pay the ER bill. Getting a lawyer to solve your problem will be really hard because there is no money to be made since the injury is so minor. That is how people are getting screwed by this law.
The bottom line though is that while we are seeing more positive tests, the way the law is being implemented hasn’t really changed at all. If anything, workers are more comfortable saying that they smoked marijuana since the illegal stigma is now gone. And insurance adjusters are more likely to accept that someone used recreationally.
Our advice is don’t get frustrated by a denied case for a positive drug test. And as always, if you want to talk to an attorney for free about a case, call us any time.