Should Workers Comp Cover Injury from a “Bad Trip?”

What a long strange trip its been when it comes to the advent of legalized (at least at the state level) marijuana.   Pot use has come up over and  over in the area of workers compensation.  Should medicinal use be covered?  Is use at the time of an injury a workers comp deal-killer?

But even among all of these new issues, this case stands out as a head-scratcher.   In Oregon, a board decision has granted workers comp to a woman who injured herself in what we can only describe as a “bad trip.”

She was hired as a receptionist at a medical marijuana dispensary that was about to open.  Two days before the opening, the employees were called in for an orientation and offered joints by the owners.  One can imagine this is a little like the employees of a Pizza Hut getting to taste the wares right before the big opening.

However, in this case, the receptionist didn’t exactly get that “peaceful, easy feelin.”  in fact it put her one toke over the line, or as the workers comp board put it:

“When they finished smoking, the employees resumed preparing for the dispensary’s opening. Claimant…was asked by several co-workers to assist them in buying office supplies. On the way to the store, claimant suffered a panic attack as a result of her marijuana intoxication. Her co-workers returned her to the parking lot of the dispensary, and the claimant exited the car. Feeling unsafe, claimant ran/somersaulted across the parking lot to a retaining wall topped by chain-link fence. She climbed the fence and dropped about 15 feet to the ground below, fracturing her left ankle.”

“Claimant ran/somersaulted across the parking lot…”  Wow.   

She filed for workers comp.  The insurer argued for denial on the grounds that, while medicinal marijuana was legal, recreational use was not and, therefore, she was engaged in an illegal activity.

After several legal twists and turns, the board found that any toking, smoking, puffing or dragging was done as a work activity.   The injury was covered by workers comp.

There was no determination whether a product that causes someone to somersault across a parking lot is an inherently dangerous product, but that is something we wondered about.

Thank you to the ever interesting Safety/NewsAlert website for first reporting this case.

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