There are currently 23 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Four states have even legalized marijuana for recreational use, and more are expected to follow in upcoming years.
The Obama administration has (so far) chosen to let states regulate use as they see fit, even though marijuana is technically a Schedule I drug (meaning the DEA has determined that no medical marijuana treatment exists) and is illegal under federal law. While medicinal marijuana has been known to help sufferers of Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain, the DEA remains unconvinced.
As medical and recreational marijuana use has spiked due to these new laws, many Social Security Disability applicants (including Supplemental Security Income applicants) are wondering if medicinal marijuana can affect their disability case.
As with most questions about Social Security Disability, there is no one cut and dry answer on how medical cannabis will affect your case.
The Social Security Administration’s official policy when it comes to drugs and alcohol is to determine whether drug or alcohol use is a contributing factor to your disabling condition. Essentially, what they’re trying to figure out is whether you are disabled and whether your condition would still persist even if you stopped using drugs or alcohol.
With physical disabilities, it’s a little more straightforward. Either the drug or alcohol use is causing your disability or it’s not; stopping use will either improve your condition or it won’t. Mental disabilities are where there is some gray area, because it’s hard to definitively prove that substance use is not a contributing factor to someone’s depression or anxiety.
Whether your state law allows it or not, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, and Social Security is a federal program, so use still has the potential to hurt your case. Not only that, but many people still view marijuana in a negative light, and may unjustly believe you are applying for Social Security benefits to support a habit without working.
It can vary case by case, but in general, medical use will have less of an effect on your credibility than recreational use, especially if your attorney can show that your doctor is supportive and has been overseeing treatment.
If you are currently using marijuana – either medically or recreationally – and need to apply for Social Security Disability benefits because you are no longer able to work due to a medical condition, we highly recommend consulting with an attorney who specializes in disability law. An attorney will know the best way to present your case to the Social Security Administration, and can help minimize any negative effects marijuana use may have on your medical records, especially if you reside where state law does not permit medical marijuana, let alone for recreational use.
Working closely with your attorney and doctor throughout the disability evaluation process will ensure your case for benefits is as strong as possible. Don’t put it off any longer, get your free case evaluation today!