Local News: State Rep. John Voss’ bill aims to modify terms relating to marijuana use, workers’ compensation (1/22/24)

John Voss

A bill proposed by District 147 state Rep. John Voss would add marijuana to the list of controlled substances that would violate an employer’s drug-free workplace policy.

House Bill 2135 would repeal two sections (287.120 and 287.140) of the existing Workers’ Compensation Law and replace them to include language specifying marijuana — in addition to alcohol and other non-prescribed controlled drugs — as a substance that would violate an employer’s drug-free workplace policy if found in an employee’s system at the time of injury or death.

“A gray area kind of exists today with regard to the Workers’ Compensation Act, and so the language that I’ve put in House Bill 2135 would simply add marijuana to the existing alcohol and non-prescribed controlled substances that, if an employer has a drug-free workplace policy, those then would provide a rebuttable presumption for a reduction in benefits to an employee if there’s an accident when they’re on the job,” Voss said.

“In other words, if you are drinking and doing something on the job and you are impaired — you’re over .08 — then you will probably forfeit some if not all of your benefits. We’re just trying to add marijuana to that list of items.”

The bill — which is similar to HB 1990 proposed by District 62 state Rep. Sherri Gallick — states if an employee gets injured or dies with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their system, their compensation would be reduced by 50%. However, if an injury or death is caused directly by an employee’s use of marijuana, no benefits would be received.

In addition, if an employee refuses to take a drug test as requested by an employer, benefits can be forfeited if there is a good reason to suspect marijuana use.

“Even though marijuana is legal in Missouri, and in many states, it is still an illegal substance at the federal level,” Voss said. “As you’re probably aware, it’s a Schedule I drug on the DEA list. So even though it’s legal in the state, it’s illegal federally, and (employers) are concerned about marijuana being used in the workplace and the gray area that kind of exists today with regard to the Workers’ Compensation Act.”

Finally, HB 2135 specifies an employer isn’t required to reimburse an employee for any costs associated with the medicinal use of marijuana.

THC — the substance found in marijuana that makes its users feel “high” — can be detected in a user’s system for up to 90 days. According to a 2022 article on the American Addiction Centers’ website, the drug can be detected in hair follicles for up to 90 days, urine for up to 30 days depending on use frequency, saliva for up to 24 hours and blood for up to 12 hours.

Despite THC being potentially detectable in a user’s system long after their “high” wears off, the bill specifies a positive test for marijuana following an injury “gives rise to rebuttable presumption” that the injury was “sustained in conjunction with the use of the tested marijuana.”

“We did get questions regarding if you are under the influence or if you’re impaired, and I think those have different meanings,” Voss said. “If you have THC in your system, you may not ‘be impaired’, but I don’t think you can definitively say that you’re not under the influence because the residual drug is still in your body. … Our bills that we’re trying to advocate for are not trying to alter any definition of marijuana or any trying to create a statute that would define impairment. We’re just simply trying to add marijuana to the list of substances like alcohol or non-prescribed controlled substances that could be litigated as a rebuttable presumption on compensation to an employee if they’re choosing to use those substances against the employer’s policy in the workplace statute.”

A public hearing was held Wednesday, Jan. 17, regarding Voss’ bill in which three witnesses testified in support of it, including representatives from the Missouri Insurance Coalition and Associated Industries of Missouri. In addition, the Committee on Legislative Research Oversight Division concluded the bill would have no direct fiscal impact on the state.

To read a summary HB2315, visit https://documents.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills241/sumpdf/HB2135I.pdf.

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