NEWS
Construction Company Forced to Pay Injured Employee’s Medical Marijuana Bills
A court ruled that a construction worker's former employer must cover his monthly medical cannabis costs, even though he uses weed to treat a workplace injury suffered 19 years ago.
Published on January 15, 2020

New Jersey residents will finally have their voices heard on the question of cannabis legalization during this November’s statewide election, but in the meantime, the Garden State is still home to some of the most expensive medical weed in the nation. But thanks to a landmark court ruling handed down this week, one long-injured Jersey patient will get to pass the buck from his pricey pot purchases.

According to NJ.com, a three-judge appellate court panel ruled in favor of former construction worker Vincent Hager this week, and will now require the man’s former employer to cover the cost of the medical cannabis he used to treat a workplace injury Hager suffered 19 years ago.

Hager, now in his late 40s, suffered a herniated disk, spinal nerve damage, and eventually an addiction to prescription opioid painkillers after a truck poured concrete on top of him while he worked a shift for M&K Construction in 2001. Now, after nearly two decades of court battles, the state of New Jersey will forward Hager’s $616 monthly medical cannabis bill to the billing department at M&K Construction.

“We are satisfied that under the circumstances of this petition, the use of medical marijuana was reasonable and necessary for the treatment of petitioner’s chronic pain,” the panel of judges wrote in their decision. 

Since cannabis is still considered a Schedule I drug at the national level, insurance companies and federal worker protections do not cover medical cannabis. But because M&K Construction is a private company based in New Jersey, and because Hager used marijuana to help wean himself off opioids, the appellate court decided it was kosher to include the medical cannabis coverage as part of Hager’s compensation.

“Petitioner has demonstrated the severity and chronic nature of his pain, his attempts to unsuccessfully alleviate the pain with multiple surgeries and medical modalities, and the validated efficacy of the prescribed medical marijuana, we find the use of medical marijuana is reasonable and necessary," the court ruling detailed.

And as New Jersey works to expand its medical cannabis program in the absence of a full-scale adult-use market, Hager’s attorney, Victor Matthews, told reporters that the case was a victory for all Garden State medical marijuana patients, and is indicative of a larger problem with legal pot pricing across the state.

“No one wants to address how patients are paying for it,” Matthews told NJ.com. “The statute clearly never contemplated this situation.”

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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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