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How will workers' compensation deal with marijuana use?

Although only medical marijuana use is currently legal in Illinois, there is growing support for recreational use as well. However, many questions are being asked about the impact this will have on workplace safety. How will business owners and their workers' compensation insurers deal with work injury claims filed by users of cannabis?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says marijuana distorts perception and impairs judgment and short-term memory. Safety authorities have linked the use of cannabis to increased numbers of workplace injuries and accidents, believed to result from these short-term effects. They say marijuana also impairs workers' sense of timing and their reaction times, while it also alters their capabilities to solve problems. Furthermore, they believe the drug changes the thought patterns and sensory perception of users while it also impairs body movement.

However, despite all these negative perceptions, an occupational and employee health professional says he has not noticed an increase in occupational injuries since the legalization of medical marijuana use in Illinois. Regardless of the growth in social acceptance of cannabis, business owners must consider establishing policies to deal with drug testing and marijuana-related safety rules. These policies must prevent adverse impacts on production and workplace safety without discriminating against workers who use marijuana lawfully.

Any victim of a work injury who has to deal with a rejected workers' compensation benefits claim because of marijuana use might find comfort in learning that help is available. An experienced Illinois workers' compensation attorney can assist with the complicated steps of the appeals process. A lawyer will do whatever is reasonably possible to secure the benefits to which the employee is entitled.

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