The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of medical cannabis patients Tuesday, voting unanimously that a construction company must pay for an injured employee’s medical cannabis bills.
The decision upheld an appellate ruling from last January that found an employer to be responsible for covering the monthly bill for medical marijuana used by a former employee to treat an injury suffered on the job in 2001.
The court found that while private health insurers and government aid programs do not have to cover medical cannabis costs under state law, private employers are not exempt from such workers’ compensation cases.
The employee, Vincent Hager, sustained a herniated disc that caused back and leg pain when a truck dumped cement on him. According to court documents, he underwent multiple surgeries and took prescribed opioids that he ultimately became dependent on.
Get Tri-state area news and weather forecasts to your inbox. Sign up for NBC New York newsletters.
The company, M&K Construction, appealed a workers’ compensation judge’s decision arguing that the company could not reimburse a former employee for a substance that is illegal under federal law. The company argued that the action would constitute aiding and abetting illegal activity.
The Supreme Court and appellate court found that the company could not be found guilty of aiding and abetting because the company is not directly purchasing or giving Hager marijuana.
“Reimbursing Hager under court mandate can hardly be interpreted as M&K ‘elect(ing)’ to aid in Hager’s possession of marijuana, contrary to federal law,” the court wrote in the decision. “Rather, it is being compelled to do so by the Order.”
Hager’s attorney was not immediately available to comment. An attorney representing M&K Construction declined to comment on the ruling.