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New Hampshire Department Of Labor Affirmed The Use Of Medical Marijuana For A Worker’s Compensation Injury

Attorney BJ Branch represented Mark Shackford in a worker’s compensation claim in conjunction with a medical marijuana referral for treatment for a work related injury.  Mr. Shackford suffered a finger injury on or about March 26, 2007 resulting in a lump sum settlement of his claim, approved in 2009.

Mr. Shackford was feeding lumber in a planer, his foot got caught, he tripped and his hand went under the saw.  His right index finger was amputated.  He had surgery but was unable to return to work. After the surgery, he had difficulty in sleeping, he testified his quality of life as being awful.  Mr. Shackford received medical treatment from a number of different providers including physical therapy, narcotics, tropical and the like. These did not provide him with relief of his pain.   He was ultimately prescribed cannabis and he testified at the hearing that it made a big difference in his pain and ability to deal with the pain.

Prior to his injury and after the surgery, Mr. Shackford denied using marijuana recreationally.  After receiving a prescription for the marijuana treatment and receiving an approved card, and pursuant to the prescription, he used about an ounce every five to six days, the prescribed medication was increased where he would utilize marijuana anywhere between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.

The worker’s compensation insurance company, relying upon a medical report from a doctor they choose, denied the medical marijuana treatment as being reasonable for medical purposes and claimed it was being used recreationally.  Prior to the use of marijuana, Mr. Shackford was indicating a pain level of 8 out of 10 and after the use of the marijuana, at a pain level of 7.  The insurance company had requested a denial based upon the opinion of their two doctors. The Department of Labor found that one of the insurance company’s doctors stated Mr. Shackford tried oxycodone, Vicodin, Lyrica, Percocet, Ibuprofen, Aleve, Neurontin, Tramadol, lidocaine and Amitriptyline with no effect.  Mr. Shackford’ s treating physician noted that he found cannabis helped him to decrease his anxiety, which in turn helped him to rest and decrease his pain.  Medical cannabis for chronic pain is an approved option in the State of New Hampshire for his treatment.  The NH Department of Labor rendered a decision that, after being prescribed the medical marijuana, Mr. Shackford was able to return to work.  They determined that Mr. Shackford satisfied his legal burden of proof that the treatment of medical marijuana is reasonable and necessary and he was entitled to have the worker’s compensation insurance company pay for the treatment within the legal limits of prescriptions.