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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

US Supreme Declines to Review Medical Marijuana Reimbursement Issue

The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) declined to review the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision prohibiting reimbursement of medical marijuana costs in a workers’ compensation claim. The Petitioner for a Writ of Certiorari conference was denied today.  Musta v. Mendota Heights Dental Center, et al., No. 21-998. Therefore, the individual States will remain the authority on whether reimbursement for medical marijuana will be permitted in a workers' compensation claim.

US Government's Position
The US Government submitted a brief to SCOTUS by invitation. The US Government urged denial of the Writ. The US Government indicated that the issue is not ripe and may in fact be decided by the other branches of the Federal government. “The Legislative and Executive Branches of the federal government are best situated to consider any potential tailored measures to address specific instances of interaction between federal and state marijuana laws. To that end, Congress has recently amended the federal prohibition on marijuana, see p. 5, supra (noting 2018 change to CSA definition of marijuana), and continues to consider more expansive approaches; indeed, shortly after the Court issued its invitations in these cases, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would remove marijuana from the CSA’s list of controlled substances altogether.”

Preemption Issue

The question presented is: “Whether the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. 801 et seq., preempts a state workers’ compensation order that compels an employer to reimburse an employee for the cost of marijuana used in response to pain arising from a work-related injury.”

The issue presented was whether employers and their insurance carriers could be compelled to reimburse costs for medical marijuana in light of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA or Act), Pub. L. No. 91-513, Tit. II, 84 Stat. 1242.

Supplemental Brief of Susan K. Mustafa

A supplemental brief in support of the Petitioner for a Writ of Certiorari was filed this week by Susan K Mustafa, the Petitioner. She asserts that there exists a 2-2 court split below on the issue presented, and it is of national importance.  

Musta argued that the US Supreme Court should review the issue because the government’s implied preemption theory is meritless. The petitioner asserts that the government is not a neutral party and does not want SCOTUS to review the matter for several reasons. A SCOTUS decision on the merits may result in further restrictions of the government’s Commerce Clause authority. The Executive Branch has been systematically refusing to prosecute these alleged federal crimes. 

The petitioner further argued that Minnesota’s workers’ compensation system does not facilitate access to marijuana. Injured workers may obtain it with or without workers’ compensation coverage. “The Court should not expand the scope of the Controlled Substance Act to regulate insurance coverage and employee reimbursement—topics on which it is silent.” “The workers’ compensation scheme poses no threat to federal law enforcement interests."

The NJ Supreme has recognized that the workers’ compensation system has a legislative mandate to provide the safest medical care to cure and relieve occupational injuries. The Court acknowledged both state and Federal trends to provide non-addictive and non-fatal pain relief in place of the dangerous opioids. Vincent Hager v. M&K Construction (A-64-19) (084045) Decided April 13, 2021.

SCOTUS receives over 8,000 petitions for certiorari per year and only accepts one percent for review. Four of the nine justices must vote in the affirmative to accept a case for oral argument.

Recommended Citation: Gelman, Jon L., US Supreme Declines to Review Medical Marijuana Reimbursement IssueWorkers' Compensation Blog, June 21, 2022),

To read more about marijuana and workers' compensation, click here.

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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ, is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Blog: Workers ' Compensation

Twitter: jongelman

LinkedIn: JonGelman

LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group

Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" Thomson-Reuters

Updated: June 22, 2022