The widow of a man crushed to death under a ski elevator has been denied half her workers’ compensation death benefits on the basis of her his legal cannabis use, as reported by the Associated Press.
In Colorado, the law states that workers compensation agencies may slash benefits by up to 50% if the worker tests positive for any controlled substances. Though cannabis is very legal in Colorado, it is still a “controlled substance” at the federal level and companies such as those in the workers’ compensation business are free to interpret the category however they wish.
In this case, Erika Lee has been denied half her compensation benefits by the state-affiliated workers’ compensation agency Pinnacol Assurance. Her husband Adam Lee was working on as an electrician, repairing a ski elevator at a resort in Loveland in December 2016 when he was killed. A toxicology report conducted after his death showed marijuana in his system.
Unlike alcohol or many other impairing substances, marijuana can stay in a person’s system for days or even weeks after its intoxicating effects have disappeared. There is no no indication that Adam Lee was impaired at the time of the accident or that the accident was in any way related to his cannabis use. In effect, he is being punished for indulging in a legal, socially acceptable activity in his off hours (how many people at a ski resort in Colorado don’t have cannabis in their system?).
Erika Lee told KMGH-TV, “I am frustrated with the system that is saying because he smoked a legal substance, we are going to take away your benefits from you and your kids.”
The widow said she intends to appeal Pinnacol’s decision. There will be a hearing on the matter before an administrative law judge in the next few months.
Photo via Flickr user Topu Saha