DENVER — A woman in Colorado is being denied insurance benefits from her dead husband's worker compensation insurance because he had marijuana in his system when he died, according to CBS News. Erika Lee is the widow of Adam Lee, who died while working as a lift mechanic at a ski resort. Lee's chest was crushed after he was pinned under the conveyor belt last December in an accident at the Loveland Ski Area.
Lee was working to fix a malfunction with the lift when he was crushed to death. His employer's insurance company Pinnacol Assurance assured that Lee's insurance benefits were cut by half upon learning of Adam Lee's weed use.
State Law Allows Insurance Reduction
Despite recreational marijuana being legal in the state, Lee's widow was told that her insurance benefits were being reduced because marijuana was detected in her husband's blood after his death. The state law allows state workers’ compensation insurance companies to cut benefits by 50 percent when alcohol or controlled substances are detected in a deceased worker's system.
Although the company's policy states that the company will reduce benefits by fifty percent if alcohol or a controlled substance is detected, Lee's attorney Karen Steinhauser argues that cannabis can stay in the bloodstream for up to 90 days and does not prove Lee was under the influence of the drug at the time of the accident.
Toxicology tests found levels of THC in Lee's blood typically associated with regular pot consumers. Erika Lee says that her husband did not use on the job, and there is no way to accurately measure when a person last consumed marijuana.
"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," said Lee.
Lee told ABC 7 Denver that she has concerns about how she will make end's meet on her salary as a teacher without her husband. "I’m scared, and I have no idea how we are going to make it. We don’t know if we will get any money, so I’m just looking now at how to survive," she said.
Lee said that she was depending on the insurance benefits to help support the couple's three children. She plans to take the Pinnacol Assurance to court and hopes that an administrative judge will assure her by ordering the company to pay her the full benefits to which she is entitled. A hearing is scheduled for next month.