July 19, 2018, Colorado
In Colorado, the state regarded as the pioneer of cannabis legalization, grieved family of a late worker died on the job will only get half of his compensation benefits because his postmortem report has found THC traces in the bloodstream.
Adam Lee, an electrician working in Loveland Ski Area, crushed to death by a ski escalator when he was trying to fix its malfunctioned machine parts in December last year. He got trapped in the escalator’s belt. At that ill-fated moment, no one was around to rescue him.
Following his death, a toxicology report was conducted that found a ‘high level’ of marijuana in his bloodstream. Lee’s wife has told the media that he had been a marijuana user since the strain became legal in the state.
It is important to note that marijuana remains in the user’s bloodstream for several days. So, toxicology report can’t conclusively suggest whether or not Lee was under the cannabis influence when he died. However, enabled by a state law, the employer has cut Lee’s worker’s compensation benefits by 50 percent. The financial crunch is looming on Lee’s family because they will get $800 less in their monthly compensations.
Brian Vicente is a lawyer who played an active role during the campaign days of the infamous recreational legalization of 2012. Vicente has termed the situation heartbreaking and an insightful message for cannabis users in the state. Even though marijuana is an entirely legal commodity in Colorado, but many of its users are not aware of such risky implication of consuming it.
In most of the cannabis cases in the legal domain, state and federal laws are at loggerheads with each other. It happens for a simple reason i.e. cannabis is still a Class I controlled substance in the federal law book.
But in this particular case, it’s not about federal-state conflict. Colorado’s own contradictory state laws have begotten this tragedy. Let’s try to understand how. It’s absolutely legal for every Colorado adult 21 or above to possess, consume, grow and sell cannabis. On the other hand, the state has allowed the worker compensation companies to cut benefits if postmortem toxicology reports are positive for ‘legal’ cannabis or other illegal drugs.
In short, you can face the cut down of as high as 50% in compensations for a commodity entirely legal as per state laws. Moreover, it doesn’t matter whether the person was high at the time of the incident. Traces of THC found in the body automatically provide the employee the right to reduce the compensations.
With blood and urine tests alone, physicians can’t conclusively say that the person was high at a particular point in time. Lee’s wife has challenged the workers’ compensation decision in the local court, which will commence the preliminary hearings from next month. Experts think that the state should address this contradiction of legalization laws. Lee’s unfortunate case clearly demonstrates that grieved loved ones end up at the receiving end of these incongruities in legislation.
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