The following article is from our newsletter Legal Street News. Sign up for our quarterly email and learn more about The Walthew Law Firm, Seattle workers compensation lawyers, personal injury law, and social security disability services. When life gets challenging, Walthew is here to help.
If you are prescribed marijuana or other painkillers after being injured at work, it is important to be informed about those drugs and the implications of their use. We are happy to share the following information with you. Please contact The Walthew Law Firm at (206) 812-2997 or toll free at (888) 534-5255 if you need a workers compensation lawyer in Seattle, Everett, or greater western Washington.
The relationship between legal marijuana usage and employment is changing, but for now, understand that using marijuana has consequences. You should understand the legal limitations and legal rights of marijuana users. If you get caught working or driving under the influence of marijuana, there can be serious consequences.
Recreational and medical marijuana is legal in Washington state. The law, passed in 2014, states individuals 21 or older can have one ounce of marijuana, but it cannot be smoked in public. Likewise, that person can have up to 16 ounces of solid marijuana-infused product (i.e. brownies) or 72 ounces of liquid marijuana product (i.e. sodas). Marijuana, however, remains illegal under Federal laws.
Likewise, penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana are similar to driving while drunk. The penalties can include loss of your driver’s license, fines, and jail time. Even one-time use leaves traces of marijuana in a person’s urine or blood for more than seven days. Regular marijuana use means it can stay in your system for more than 100 days.
Employers can refuse to hire or can fire someone who tests positive for marijuana. This is particularly important information for injured workers. Although a doctor may prescribe medical marijuana to help with pain control, if an employer offers a light-duty or other return-to-work jobs to someone taking medical marijuana and part of return to work is drug screening, you could be terminated from work for a positive test for marijuana. Time loss benefits will not be paid after an employer fires someone for cause– in this case a failed drug test.
Pain Medication (Percocet, OxyContin)
In 2007, the Washington State Department of Health created a program “to monitor the prescribing and dispensing of all… drugs identified by the pharmacy quality assurance commission as demonstrating a potential for abuse.” (RCW 70.225.020). Since then, the state has further limited doctors from prescribing habit-forming pain medications like Percocet or OxyContin.
The unintended and mostly unforeseen consequences of prescribing so much pain medication is a large increase in heroin usage, more hospitalizations and deaths from overdose, with teens and young adults being some of the most impacted people. When access to legal or illegal prescription medication ends, they turn to cheaper and plentiful heroin.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy in February 2014 released a fact sheet describing the huge increase in prescription drug, heroin, and cocaine abuse since 1999. The report cited that in 2010 more than 100 Americans died per day from overdose, led by prescription drug abuse.
The Department of Labor & Industries advises that “Washington is among those states with the highest rate of opioid-related deaths in the US. This now exceeds both motor-vehicle accidents and firearms as the leading cause of injury-related death.” (Jan 9, 2012, Health Advisory) Based on these facts and others, the Department changed their policy on authorization for addictive pain prescriptions.
The Department now restricts addictive pain medications to 6 to 12 weeks following surgery or the date of a painful injury (severe trauma, fracture, or crush injury). Continuation beyond that time is dependent on improvement in function with the pain medications.
These policies seem to be working. In 2015 the Washington State Department of Health reported a 29% drop in addictive pain medication related deaths between 2008 and 2013 and a 29% reduction in the numbers of hospitalizations for prescription pain medication overdoses.
Talk with your doctor about your need for pain medication. There are other prescription medications to help with chronic pain. Your doctor can refer you to a pain management specialist and, in most cases, your insurance company or the Department should authorize that treatment.
As workers compensation lawyers, The Walthew Law Firm is familiar and focused on helping people receive fair treatment from the Department of Labor & Industries and self-insured employers, especially when workers are forced to miss work or the longevity of their career is effected by work-related injuries. If you are the victim of an accident at work and need help getting proper compensation or holding product manufacturers accountable, contact The Walthew Law Firm at (206) 812-2997 or toll free at (888) 534-5255.