Pepsi Bottling Co. must reimburse a onetime employee for his work injury-related medical cannabis costs, a panel of New Jersey Appellate Division judges found May 11.
Judges Mitchel Ostrer, Allison Accurso and Catherine Enright upheld a worker’s compensation court decision that former employee Brian Calmon’s medical cannabis be paid for by Pepsi, relying on the decision on the New Jersey Supreme Court’s recent Hager v. M&K Construction case.
In Hager v. M&K Construction, the Supreme Court unanimously said on April 13 that M&K was responsible for former employee Vincent Hager’s medical cannabis costs. Hager was injured on the job more than 20 years ago when a truck on a job site dumped a load of concrete onto him, resulting in chronic pain.
“The Court held … [New Jersey’s Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act] is not preempted by the Controlled Substances Act as applied to workers’ compensation court order directing reimbursement for prescribed medical marijuana,” the judges wrote, affirming the workers’ compensation court decision in Calmon’s case “based on the Court’s controlling opinion of Hager.”
Scarinci Hollenbeck Counsel Dan McKillop, who leads the firm’s cannabis law group, said the decision is “further evidence that New Jersey employers need to be very aware that they may be required to reimburse employees for the cost of medical cannabis used as a result of a work-related injury.”
Calmon was represented by Salzer & Salzer partner Karen Salzer, a workers’ compensation attorney based in Toms River. Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin Shareholders Walter Kawalec and Kristy Salvitti represented Pepsi.
Salzer said she was pleased with the decision.
“Previously, medicinal marijuana was not a treatment option available to injured employees through workers’ compensation and the cost was prohibitive,” she told NJBIZ. “This decision helps pave the way for injured employees to obtain pain relief with an alternative to dangerous opiates.”
Kawalec and Salvitti did not respond to a request for comment by press time.