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Driving within the speed limit seemed a prudent move for evading police while traveling across a state border
The Quest for the
to buy marijuana in a jurisdiction where
sales are legal. In hindsight, I suppose
that not speeding could have made us
more conspicuous after reentering our
home state, where weed remains illegal.
The momentary dilemma was part
of a string of events turning me slightly
skeptical about weed’s potential as a
pain-relief alternative to opioids — a
current topic in the industry as it
wrestles with both opioid addiction and
the increased prevalence of marijuana.
An August 2017 National Council
on Compensation Insurance paper
reported that workers’ comp insurers
are asking whether marijuana is a safe
alternative to opioids and whether it can
positively impact costs and outcomes.
The above-mentioned weed-purchasing journey began when my
wife of nearly 30 years and I made the
85-mile trek across the Oregon border
last summer, shortly after her stage- 4
Given her past ;ght with cancer,
we correctly suspected she wouldn’t
survive long. I’m not certain now what
relief we expected from weed. But
driving to purchase the drug offered an
amusing weekend distraction from our
We found an old gas station
converted into a cramped weed store
in a dying rural hamlet that hopes
marijuana sales will resuscitate its
economy. A show of license plates
revealed that other Idahoans were on
That con;rms employers’ worry
that the growing legalization trend
increases the chance that employees
will procure it out of state and use it in
jurisdictions where it remains illegal,
raising nationwide concerns about
workplace safety and liability.
There is also the fear of paying for a
treatment many suspect lacks ef;cacy.
I’ve been more intrigued by the
claims some doctors and patients make
that medical marijuana can relieve
chronic pain and reduce opioid use by
I’ve chosen to believe the doctors
who tell me they have seen positive
results. But after witnessing Diane’s
demise I have questions about the limits
of marijuana for pain management.
Among other horri;c symptoms,
Diane suffered greatly from a tumor
squeezing her spinal cord. It caused
the neuropathic pain common among
workers’ comp patients. She fought to
limit opioid consumption until higher
doses became undeniably necessary.
I can’t imagine where marijuana
would come close to addressing that
kind of pain. Maybe it has other bene;ts
— like helping with the sleep or anxiety
problems many workers’ comp pain
patients get prescribed a variety of
drugs for in addition to opioids.
Those are the kinds of issues we
need research to shed light on. Until
then, those questions insurers and
observers have about marijuana’s
potential ef;cacy, will remain just
ROBERTO CENICEROS is senior editor at
Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National
Workers’ Compensation and Disability
Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at
BY ROBERTO CENICEROS