Is Medical Marijuana a Qualified Prescription Medication?

Q: I have chronic back pain from an on-the-job injury which occurred several years ago. I have been prescribed narcotic pain medication with limited success. Recently, my doctor suggested I try medical marijuana. The insurance company has refused to pay for the marijuana saying it is not a qualified “prescription medication.”

A: Your question raises important legal issues regarding the use of medical marijuana which has been legal in Oregon since 1998. Currently, Oregon Workers’ Compensation Division rules do not require reimbursement for “nonprescription” drugs. Under the current rules, marijuana is considered a nonprescription medication, like any other over-the-counter medication you can buy. Oregon rules have not kept up with the times. Other states, including Maine and New Mexico, are exploring the use of medical marijuana in lieu of prescription narcotics. Many doctors feel that marijuana and its derivatives are better suited for treating chronic pain than heavy narcotics. Currently, you can receive a marijuana card through the State of Oregon or purchase legal marijuana under the advice of your doctor.Continuing research will hopefully lead to a more enlightened view of the benefits of medical marijuana. If you have specific questions about getting your prescription covered, talk to an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation laws. You can also check with the Oregon Workers’ Compensation Division, Medical Services Team, to find out what drugs are reimbursable under current Oregon law.
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