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Injured Oklahoma worker compensated after failing drug test

Oklahoma has one of the most progressive medical marijuana programs in the country, making it available to anyone who can obtain a physician's recommendation for the drug for any reason. It's probably no surprise that Oklahoma has already seen the issue of post-accident drug testing for worker's compensation entitlement go to the courts.

The Oklahoma Civil Court of Appeals just reversed a ruling by the Oklahoma Workers Compensation Commission (OWCC) denying an injured machine operator benefits because he failed a drug test after his left hand and wrist were crushed in a machine roller. The worker, a machine operator, was assisting a co-worker after a piece of plastic stuck in the guillotine machine. As he moved to clear the plastic with his bare hand, another co-worker accidentally restarted the machine.

Per company policy, the worker was given a drug test, which he failed. Although there was both morphine and marijuana in his system, the issue seems to have been whether or not the presence of marijuana should prohibit him from receiving benefits. The company's insurer denied his claim and the Commission agreed.

When reversing the Commission's decision, the Appeals Court stated that the worker's assertion that he was clear-headed and sober when working was believable. He claimed that he had last smoked marijuana a full 10 hours before the accident. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana's psychoactive ingredient, can remain in a user's system for days or weeks after last use -- long after any effects have worn off. There was evidence from his co-workers and others that he was not impaired.

This case is a potential game-changer for other injured workers. Without evidence of actual mental impairment due to marijuana usage at the time of the accident, injured workers will now have new hope. If you've been injured on the job, find out more about your legal rights.

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