New Jersey's state Assembly Appropriations Comittee advanced bill A1708 which would require workers' compensation benefits and personal injury protection (PIP) to include coverage for medical marijuana in some situtations.
The bill requires the individual to be enrolled in New Jersey's medical marijuana program. While the bill was first approved for the committee back in February 2020, it has not been able to move forward since the outbreak of the pandemic until now. The Assembly cleared the measure by a vote of 7 to 4.
While medical marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes in New Jersey it is still considered a schedule 1 drug under federal law. Insurers argue that providing benefits for marijuana puts them at risk of violating that federal law. While the federal government has been leaving marijuana regulations up to individual states, it does pose a risk.
The original bill had required patients to try an alternate form of treatment before seeking medical marijuana but that provision was removed in the current bill. It also added a provision that should the federal government step in to enforce federal law, insurers would not be on the hook to pay those costs.
There has already been a case in New Jersey that sets some precedent for the bill. Earlier this year the courts ruled that an employee be compensated for medical marijuana costs as part of treatment for their injuries.
“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 wrote.
The state Senate has yet to take up A1708. It must still pass through that chamber, as well as the full Assembly, and then be signed by the governor to become law.