[dropcap class=”kp-dropcap”]S[/dropcap]hould a family be denied workman’s compensation benefits because of cannabis consumption? That’s the question one Colorado family is asking. Adam Lee died while working on the clock at Loveland Ski Area in Clear Creek County, Colorado. But because a toxicology report indicated that there was cannabis in his system, Lee’s widow Erika and her family are being denied half of his workman’s compensation benefits.
On Dec. 28, 2017, Lee was tragically crushed to death under the Magic Carpet ski escalator. He was attempting to fix the machine after a malfunction occurred. According to Erika, other workers tried to restart the machine seven times, with Lee underneath, and it crushed him to death.
Now Erika will lose half of her late husband’s benefits. “I’m scared, and I have no idea how we are going to make it,” Erika told The Denver Channel. “We don’t know if we will get any money, so I’m just looking now at how to survive.”
Under Colorado law—despite the fact that cannabis is legal in Colorado—workers can lose 50 percent of their benefits or more if they test positive for a controlled substance. “I am frustrated with the system that is saying because he smoked a legal substance, we are going to take away your benefits from you and your kids,” she said.
According to experts, current science can’t differentiate whether a worker was impaired or if they simply had traces of cannabis metabolites lingering in their system. So no one can really know with certainty if Lee was under the influence of cannabis when he died or if he just consumed cannabis days or weeks ago. Other factors apply. Cannabis, for instance, does not impair a person’s ability to drive as efficiently as alcohol. As CULTURE reported last year, roadside drug tests have also sent innocent people to jail.
Erika and her family will now lose about $800 per month because of the toxicology report. The workman’s compensation reduction is like putting salt on the wound following Lee’s death.