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Local/state briefs

Minnesota court: Workers’ comp can’t cover medical marijuana

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Workers’ compensation for injured employees doesn’t cover medical marijuana because the drug remains illegal under federal law, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The state’s highest court issued a pair of rulings that overturned earlier decisions by the state Workers Compensation Court of Appeals’ that ordered employers to pay for medical marijuana to treat work-related injuries.

The Supreme Court ruled that federal law, which prohibits the prescribing and possession of marijuana regardless of state laws authorizing it, blocks employers from being required to pay for medical cannabis.

Writing for the majority, Associate Justice G. Barry Anderson wrote that the proper remedy would be for Congress to pass and the president to sign legislation to resolve the conflicts between state and federal laws.

The court noted that Congress has prohibited the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical marijuana laws, and that the federal government’s position on criminal prosecution of marijuana offenses has been in “a state of flux.” But it said possession remains illegal under federal law, so mandating that employers pay for medical cannabis makes them criminally liable for aiding and abetting possession.

In a pair of dissents, Associate Justice Margaret Chutich wrote that the effect of the decisions is to prevent “injured workers who suffer intractable pain from receiving the relief that medical cannabis can bring.” She said that frustrates the Legislature’s goal with workers’ compensation of quickly and efficiently delivering medical benefits to injured workers at a reasonable cost to employers.

The cases involved a Mendota Heights dental hygienist who suffered an on-the-job neck injury and an employee at a Prior Lake outdoor equipment dealer who suffered an ankle injury when an ATV rolled over it. Both workers were certified by their doctors to use medical marijuana after other treatments to control their pain, including opioids, proved inadequate.

Minnesota has allowed medical cannabis since 2015 but has some of the country’s most restrictive rules. The state currently allows only oral, vapor and topical forms, and health insurance companies don’t cover it. That has kept costs high for patients.

That’s about to change, however. The Legislature earlier this year relaxed the law to allow for allow smokable medical marijuana starting next spring. The change is expected to slash costs and to triple or quadruple the number of patients using it.

The Democratic-controlled Minnesota House voted to legalize recreational marijuana earlier this year, but the proposal got no traction in the GOP-controlled Senate. The issue is expected to come up again in the 2022 session and campaign season.

Man charged with homicide in possible case of wrong identity

BRAINERD (AP) — A Brainerd man faces a homicide charge after he allegedly shot and killed a woman he may have thought was his ex-girlfriend, investigators say.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that 29-year-old Cameron Moser was charged Monday in Crow Wing County with second-degree intentional murder in connection with 46-year-old Bethany Bernatsky’s death. Police found her body in a resort cabin near Nisswa on Thursday.

Sheriff Scott Goddard said investigators believe Moser may have been looking to kill his ex-girlfriend and mistook Bernatsky for her. Both women’s families say they resemble each other.

The ex-girlfriend’s father said the week before the shooting Moser came to the RV park he owns across from the resort looking for her. He said Moser wasn’t happy that his daughter had overcome drug abuse.

Bernatsky had recently left Vermont, where she was running a paving company, and planned to stay the winter in the Brainerd area, her brother, Ben Bernatsky, said. She had moved into a cabin at the resort a couple weeks ago.

According to the criminal complaint, a cabin occupant called police Thursday night to report gunfire coming from the cabin next door. Responding officers found Moser near the RV park with a rifle and a handgun. He surrendered about 1 a.m. A SWAT team found Bernatsky’s body in the cabin where the shots originated. Shell casings recovered from the cabin matched Moser’s rifle, the complaint said.

Moser remains in jail on $1 million bail. His attorney didn’t return a message.

Judge won’t block vaccine mandate for Minnesota workers

ST. PAUL (AP) — A federal judge won’t block a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for scores of Minnesota health care workers, at least for now.

Nearly 200 Minnesota health care workers filed a lawsuit in September challenging the requirement from President Joe Biden’s administration that all workers in most health settings get vaccinated or lose their jobs. The workers argued the lack of alternatives infringes on their rights.

Minnesota Public Radio reported Tuesday that U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel held a nearly three-hour hearing on whether to block the requirement but ultimately denied the request.

She didn’t dismiss the case outright, however. She said the health care workers filed the request anonymously and will have to reveal their names to employers.

The case is one of several lawsuits challenging vaccine mandates that have been filed across the countr against government entities, employers or both.

Minnesota Zoo searches for lost owl

APPLE VALLEY (AP) — The Minnesota Zoo is searching for a lost owl.

KFGO reported Wednesday that Gladys, the zoo’s Eurasian eagle owl, flew off during a routine exercise and training session earlier this month and didn’t return.

Zoo staff believe Gladys is probably still within the zoo’s 485-acre, heavily forested grounds. They’re asking the public to keep an eye out for her.

She would be tough to miss. Eurasian owls are among the largest owls in the world, with piercing orange eyes and six-foot wingspans.

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