Does Legal Cannabis Affect Workers’ Comp Claims in California?

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Workers' comp claims and cannabis use. As many of you know, California recently legalized recreational cannabis for adults over 21 years old. Since the passage of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, California has also allowed individuals to obtain cannabis for medical purposes. Legal cannabis also affects the workers’ compensation system in California. California employers are not liable if injury claims involve illicit drug or alcohol intoxication. However, there is a catch. Before an employer can deny a claim, they must show that there is a proximate cause between the workplace injury and drug or alcohol use. This is problematic because the active ingredient in cannabis (THC) is fat-soluble. You could test positive for cannabis several weeks after your last use. To make matters more confusing, a positive drug test does not necessarily mean you were intoxicated at the time of the accident. There are also no tests or benchmarks for measuring cannabis intoxication. Therefore, it is often very difficult to determine whether cannabis intoxication was the proximate cause of a workplace injury or accident.

What If My Employer Denies My Workers’ Comp Claim for Cannabis Use?

It is important to remember that the burden of proof for proving a proximate cause between a workplace injury and cannabis intoxication rests on the employer. Due to the reasons described above, it is generally very difficult for an employer to meet this threshold. We encourage you to speak with one of our attorneys if your employer denies your workers’ comp claim for cannabis use. You should also consider speaking to one of our attorneys if you believe that legal cannabis use could affect your existing claim. To reach a Gilroy workers’ compensation attorney at Robbins, Strunk & Cramer, call (408) 763-8336 or use our online case review form. We offer free initial consultations that can help address some of your concerns.

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