From the Desk Of: Thomas L. Bolinger, Esq.
Of Counsel, San Diego
Certified Specialist, Workers' Compensation Law,
The State Bar of California,
Board of Legal Specialization
I begin this article with a brief history lesson. In 1996, Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, was approved by 65% of the voters in California. The Proposition legalized the use, possession and cultivation of cannabis by patients with a physician's recommendation.
The initiative was criticized for its lack of structure. Consequently, in January of 2003, SB 420 was passed which established an identification card system for medical cannabis patients. The medical cannabis was to be used for treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, glaucoma, arthritis, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.
In the workers' compensation arena, there was concern that a plethora of cases would spring up involving the use of medical marijuana for treatment and/or future medical care. As it turned out, no floodgates opened in these areas.
In November of 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64, the adult useofmarijuana act. This legalized the recreational use of cannabis.
(Prior to that time, several attempts were made through the initiative process in California to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. However, the previous propositions were all voted down. It's theorized that this was due to the fact that the individuals who normally voted in favor of such propositions usually showed up at the polls a day late.)
Once again, since November of 2016, legal experts have questioned how the legalization of the use of recreational marijuana will affect the medical delivery system in workers' compensation. Surprisingly, to date, there has been very little case law of any significance in this area.
This brings us to the present. Currently, the State is in the process of setting up, regulating and taxing the cultivation and sale of this now legal commodity. However, it has become apparent that, while many business entities are complying with the current law in the sale of recreational marijuana, other companies remain in the underground economy of unregulated (i.e. untaxed) sale of cannabis.
In short, while there may be unintended consequences which have appeared in the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, to date, the workers' compensation arena does not appear to be one of them.
Finally, it should be noted that CVS Pharmacy recently announced that it will be selling in California various creams, salves and sprays which contain Cannabidiol (CBD). This is a compound found in the cannabis plant. Proponents say that CBD does not make a person feel intoxicated, but that it does have therapeutic effects for both physical and mental conditions. Similar products will be available at Walgreens, but not in California.
According to the FDA, companies can't add CBD to food, or sell it as a dietary supplement. So, you still need to buy your brownies at the local legal dispensary near you.