Published on: May 18, 2018
The use of medicinal marijuana is becoming more common around the country, with 27 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico all having some form of medicinal marijuana acceptance laws with a doctor’s recommendation. Eight states now even have full legalization.
However, despite its growing acceptance, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug with no medicinal benefits by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and thus is illegal at the federal level. This leaves Floridians using medicinal marijuana concerned when they go to apply for Social Security Disability benefits, military benefits, and more. But should they be?
Social Security is generally very strict when it comes to drug and alcohol use. The belief is that if you are using either, that you are simply applying for disability in order to continue to support your habit and be freed from work responsibilities. However, Social Security has not yet taken a formal position on how they view medical marijuana, and often look at the laws of your state (you can view the administration’s formal regulations here). Still, it’s best to avoid all illegal substances when applying for benefits. However, for those using medicinal marijuana this can be easier said than done. The fact is, they’re not using it for recreational purposes. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for medicinal marijuana use, especially when other medications haven’t been effective. Medicinal marijuana has been approved for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), anxiety, anorexia, arthritis, cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS). There’s even a caveat for other conditions such a chronic nonmalignant pain.
Medical use of marijuana should have far less effect on your disability application than recreational use, but it will be especially beneficial if your attorney or advocate can show that you have a supportive doctor that is closely monitoring your treatment. Social Security will also be looking at a few other factors:
- That you have one or more of the pre-approved conditions listed previously
- That you’ve sought treatment for the condition in the past and that those other treatments were not successful
- That your condition would worsen if you were to abstain from marijuana
- That you don’t have a history of drug or alcohol abuse (this won’t immediately disqualify you, but they will certainly look into your disability claim a little more closely)
The final concern some applicants have is whether usage will affect their overall credibility; “drug bias” exists, even if unfairly. But again, with Florida now allowing medicinal medicine and just opening up the door for edibles (yet still not smokable buds), if you can show you’ve been recommended marijuana due to physical pain or mental anguish we don’t think your usage should seriously damage your case. Just be sure your condition has been well-documented by a medical doctor, and try to get a written statement by the doctor as well.
If you use medicinal marijuana and are applying for Social Security benefits, or if you think you’ve been unfairly treated at a disability hearing because of medicinal usage, the Disability Experts of Florida are here for help and advice, and even to represent you in court. Contact us today to discuss your unique situation.