The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday held that federal law preempts a state Workers’ Compensation (WC) law requiring employers to reimburse injured employees for medical marijuana.
Two respondents filed lawsuits seeking to have their former employers reimburse them for prescribed medical marijuana, which was prescribed to treat their work-related injuries. Justice Anderson delivered the court’s opinions for two companion cases, addressing questions of subject-matter jurisdiction and preemption.
After suffering work-related injuries, respondents Daniel Bierback and Susan Musta were diagnosed with chronic pain and enrolled in a state-authorized medical marijuana research program. Bierback and Musta later filed WC claims seeking reimbursement from their former employers for medical marijuana. A WC judge granted their petition, and the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals affirmed.
The respondents’ former employers appealed the decisions to the Minnesota Supreme Court, arguing that the appellate court lacked “subject matter jurisdiction to decide arguments that require interpreting federal law, including a question of preemption.” The former employers also argued that the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) preempted Minnesota’s law requiring employers to reimburse injured employees for medical marijuana treatment costs.
Minnesota’s Supreme Court determined that the WC court lacked jurisdiction to hear the cases because each case required the interpretation and application of federal law. The court then held that the CSA preempts the WC court’s orders mandating the former employers to pay for respondents’ medical marijuana.
Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler tweeted that marijuana bans prevent “people from getting housing, jobs, & services” and that he “will keep pushing for legalization & expungement.”