The Employer and Insurer appeal a Findings and Order, awarding reimbursement to the Employee for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in purchasing medical cannabis. The Employee suffered a work injury to her neck. As a result of the injury, she underwent various treatment, including surgery and long-term opioid use. The Employee was subsequently diagnosed with intractable pain, which qualified her to obtain medical cannabis under the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research Act (MCTRA). The Employee obtained medical cannabis from a state authorized distributor and was paying for her prescription herself. When Employee requested reimbursement of her out-of-pocket expenses, the Employer and Insurer denied reimbursement, asserting federal law preempts the MCTRA.
At hearing, the parties stipulated that Employee’s use of medical cannabis was reasonable, necessary, and causally related to the work injury, and stipulated that the Employee properly followed the procedures in the MCTRA. The only issue at hearing was whether an order requiring the Employer and Insurer to reimburse the Employee for out-of-pocket expenses associated with medical cannabis would be in violation of federal law. Prior to the decision, OAH certified the preemption question to the supreme court, but the supreme court declined to accept the question, stating “the legal issue presented by this workers’ compensation matter is best addressed through the decision process established by the Legislature.” Therefore, the compensation judge issued a Findings and Order, ordering the Employer and Insurer to reimburse the Employee for out-of-pocket expenses associated with the medical cannabis.
On appeal, the WCCA reiterated that the Employer and Insurer are required to pay for all reasonable, necessary, and causally related medical treatment. Given that the parties stipulated that the use of medical cannabis is reasonable, necessary, and related, the claim for reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses associated with the medical cannabis is compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act. In regards to the preemption issue, the WCCA stated that “to answer this question, this court would need to interpret and apply laws beyond the Workers’ Compensation Act and beyond our limited jurisdiction.” Further, the WCCA concluded that just because the supreme court declined to accept the certified question does not provide the court with additional jurisdiction to decide legal questions outside of the Workers’ Compensation Act. The WCCA affirmed.
Takeaway: The WCCA will not address or decide legal issues that are outside the Workers’ Compensation Act.