A judge in New Jersey ruled that a man’s insurance company must pay for the cost of his medical cannabis treatment. This may establish an important precedent in the medical industry.
Andrew Watson, who lives in Egg Harbor, New Jersey, enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program in 2014. He sought financial reimbursement for the purchase of medicinal cannabis over a term of three months.
Watson suffered from chronic neuropathic pain in his left hand. His condition was consistent with New Jersey’s list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. He was injured on the job. His initial worker’s compensation claim was denied.
During the hearing, a psychiatrist/neurologist testified on Watson’s behalf. The expert stated that medical marijuana would allow Watson to reduce his prescription opiate use. This would lower risk of addiction and dangerous side effects. The court established that Watson’s cannabis usage is indeed medicinal and that his insurance company should cover his claim.
The presiding judge, Ingrid L. French, stated:
The evidence presented in these proceedings show that the petitioner’s ‘trial’ use of medicinal marijuana has been successful. While the court is sensitive to the controversy surrounding the medicinal use of marijuana, whether or not it should be prescribed for a patient in a state where it is legal to prescribe it is a medical decision that is within the boundaries of the laws in the state.
Opioids Versus Medical Cannabis
Opioids, such as methadone, oxycodone (such as OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®), have been responsible for over 183,000 deaths during the last 15 years. Their misuse, abuse and addiction are rampant in the United States. In 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids. On any given day, 1000 people on average are treated in emergency situations for the misuse of these drugs.
As of early 2017, medical cannabis is legal in 28 states. More doctors and patients are likely to choose cannabis over mainstream prescription drugs to treat ailments such as pain. Pain management is a perfect contender for cannabis treatment, considering existing pharmaceutical solutions are quite addictive and outright dangerous.
Judge French called Watson’s choice to use medical cannabis as “cautious, mature, and… exceptionally conscientious.” Many believe that medical cannabis can benefit both patients and insurance companies because treatment is less costly than pharmaceutical options.