The Department of Justice on Monday called on the Supreme Court to deny a legal effort by two employees seeking reimbursement from their employers for medical marijuana expenses they claim are needed to treat injuries sustained at work.
“The petitions in these cases, which present a novel question in a rapidly evolving area of law, do not warrant this Court’s review,” the DOJ told the justices in an amicus brief. “The judgments below are correct for the straightforward reason that when a federal law such as the (Controlled Substances Act) prohibits possession of a particular item, it preempts a state law requiring a private party to subsidize the purchase of that item.”
The high court had previously asked the Office of the Solicitor General for input on the matter after the workers filed separate petitions for an appeal following their loss in the Minnesota Supreme Court.
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Both petitioners sustained severe physical injuries and were prescribed medical marijuana for managing regular pain or discomfort, according to the brief. One petitioner, Susan Musta, suffered a spinal injury while performing dental hygienist duties, and another petitioner, Daniel Bierbach, sustained an ankle injury while working at a vehicle dealership.
Four state supreme courts have addressed the kinds of legal issues presented by the petitioners, all of which have rendered evenly split decisions.
"The Minnesota Supreme Court decisions in these cases — which adopted an unnecessarily complex preemption analysis in an idiosyncratic context — do not warrant this Court's consideration," the DOJ argued.
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A decision to take up either case filed by the pair of employees would allow the high court to determine whether the federal Controlled Substances Act preempts state cannabis laws.
As of February, 37 states and Washington, D.C., allow the use of marijuana products for medical purposes, according to a database from the National Conference of State Legislators.