Monday, April 30, 2012

Medical Marijuana is Reimbursable, Louisiana Appeals Court Decides

Risk & Insurance may not be the periodical of choice for most, but an interesting case was posted among its otherwise staid coverage of deductibles, collision coverage and actuary tables.

An appeals court in Louisiana (Creole Steel, Inc. v. Stewart, No. WCA 11-1285 for you lawyer types) found that a "worker" was entitled to reimbursement medical marijuana costs he paid out of pocket.

A summary of the case details that the worker injured his spine while working. A doctor visit uncovered that he was using marijuana and the doctor warned he could no longer treat the worker if he continued its use.

Explaining that the cannabis enabled him to sleep and that it gave him some relief from his pain, the doctor prescribed it to him. However, his employer challenged its use as a "reasonable medical necessity of the prescription."

A workers' compensation judge found that the doctor could continue while pursuing other treatments.

After a trial, the workers' compensation judge concluded that the doctor could proceed with his recommendation that the worker use medical marijuana while investigating other treatment alternatives.

The Louisiana Court of Appeal ultimately sided with the worker, and ruled that the medical marijuana expenses were reimbursable.

Banks Shut Doors on Dispensaries

Like Michael Corleone, medical marijuana dispensaries are having problems going legit.

Never mind that 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical use. Banks and other financial institutions are treating anything that has to do with the medical marijuana industry like six year olds and the cooties.

Threats by the U.S. Attorneys to treat the revenues of medical marijuana businesses as monies raised by criminal enterprises and that the IRS is not allowing regular business deductions for collectives have caused banks to reconsider their relationships with anything that has to do with medical marijuana.

The collectives want to have the bank accounts and paper trails of other businesses, but banks either refuse to allow them to open an account or freeze their assets after they've been doing business. This drives many collectives and dispensaries to a cash-only model.

"I have a business license and federal tax ID number, but not a bank account," Laura Healy, co-founder of Walla Walla, Wash. collective Green Hope told The Seattle Times. On one hand they treat her like a normal businesses, she added, then treat her like a criminal with the other.

Amsterdam's Famous Coffee Shops May be Closed for Tourists

The coffee shops in Amsterdam and in other cities of The Netherlands, known for sales of legal recreational marijuana, will be illegal for tourists if a recent court decision stands.

The country's coffee shops challenged a law that would only allow citizens and permanent residents access to recreational pot on the grounds that it would be illegal under Dutch anti-discrimination laws. The rational for the new drug law was an uptick in crimes linked to cannabis. There would be no exceptions to the new law.

The shops have vowed to take the case to higher court.

About 23 percent of Amsterdam's tourists make a stop at the city's coffee shops and the potential loss in revenue has its mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, scrambling to forge a compromise with the national government. However, with the collapse of the conservative-led government, new elections are scheduled for September, putting those plans in limbo.

"We have tourists that just want to have a smoke," said Michael Velig, owner of the 420 Café told The Washington Post. "If they're not going to get it, they will ask Dutch people who actually have a pass for the coffee shop to buy it. Or they fall in hands of the illegal street sellers."