Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a new marijuana enforcement memo rescinding the Obama administration's guidance that allowed states to legalize marijuana without fear of federal prosecution. The one-page memo makes it clear that marijuana possession and distribution is against federal law. The memo also makes it clear that banks servicing the state-legal marijuana industry are violating federal law.
HOW MANY STATES ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
Currently, 29 states plus the District of Columbia have adopted medical marijuana laws and eight states plus the District of Columbia have passed recreational marijuana laws. California legalized recreational marijuana beginning January 1, 2018, but has not yet adopted a standard measure for marijuana impairment. Note, another 17 states have adopted medical marijuana programs in limited medical situations, but are not considered comprehensive programs.
BANNED ON CALIFORNIA COLLEGE CAMPUSES
Although California has legalized marijuana for adults, colleges and universities across the state are maintaining a policy of prohibition. Why? Any institution that receives federal research or financial aid funding (nearly every college does) must have policies in line with federal drug laws, which clearly outline marijuana as illegal. This is also the policy at colleges and universities in the other states that have legalized recreational marijuana.
WHAT ABOUT MEDICAL MARIJUANA?
Although the new memo gives federal prosecutors leeway to go after marijuana violations in states where the drug is legal, the Justice Department is blocked from using any money to prosecute medical marijuana usage in states where it's legal, due to the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment. However, this must be renewed every year with the federal budget, which is up on Jan. 19. Currently five states - Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Mexico - have found medical marijuana is a permissible workers' compensation treatment that requires insurer reimbursement. This will continue to be a hot topic in 2018 that we'll keep covering.
Wisconsin Business Comes Together
The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) and 50 other business associations came together to urge legislators to pass a medical fee schedule that was unanimously supported by the Workers' Compensation Advisory Council last fall. This new momentum by business might be the push needed to build legislative consensus to pass the bill. However, health care groups oppose the bill, state the system is working, and point to an 8.5% drop in workers' compensation premiums last year.
The Advisory Council comes together to propose changes to the state's workers' compensation program in an agreed bill each two-year legislative session. The agreed bill would set medical care at 2.5% higher than the average negotiated prices for regular health insurance plans. A study by the Workers' Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) found that medical payments in Wisconsin were increasing at a faster rate than other states. Wisconsin is one of six states that do not have a medical fee schedule.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The New York Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) announced it was seeking comments on a proposed drug formulary that would limit new opioid prescriptions to seven days. The drug formulary is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2018. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed comprehensive workers' compensation reform into law last April, which included the WCB to establish a drug formulary. Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until March 4, 2018, and should be submitted to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DrugFormulary.
Pennsylvania will see one of the largest workers' compensation premium increase in 25 years. The Acting Insurance Commissioner, Jessica Altman, approved a 6.06% increase effective February 1, 2018. The rate increase is due to a June 2017 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that voided a portion of the state's workers' compensation law. The ruling barred the practice of using the American Medical Association (AMA) guidelines to cap benefits paid out to severely injured workers.
New data shows the number of federal workplace safety inspectors in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have declined over the past year. This is the first time that federal inspectors fell below 1,000. Although the decline is due to attrition, OSHA has not filled any of those vacancies. One of the Trump administration's key objectives is to streamline the government to make it leaner and more effective. OSHA is responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers. We'll keep an eye out on how this reduction will affect businesses and their employees.
Although the RIMS 2018 Annual Conference is still 94 days away, we want to give a congratulatory shout out to Robert Cartwright, Jr. who was named 2018 President of RIMS. We're looking forward to seeing Robert and everyone at the Annual Conference in San Antonio in April!