A question some of my clients have asked me is how smoking marijuana could potentially affect their application for social security disability benefits. I wish I had a hard and fast answer but unfortunately the law is unclear. When deciding whether you should qualify for benefits an administrative law judge must take into consideration whether the use of drugs and/or alcohol is a contributing factor to why you are disabled. They must determine whether your condition would continue to exist if you were not consuming drugs or alcohol. If drugs and alcohol are a contributing factor could lead to a denial.
I recommend that all my clients remain off any drugs that are not prescribed by a doctor including alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana. Better to be safe than sorry as far as recreational drug use is concerned. However, if marijuana has been medically prescribed, the law becomes less clear. In many states medical marijuana use has been legalized even though all use of marijuana is illegal under federal law. I have seen it used for treating progressive diseases as well as terminal ones like an advanced cancer.
A social security applicant who is considering using medical marijuana should take several things into consideration although my advice is ultimately proceed if you are comfortable with the risk. First, consider the fact that under federal law marijuana is illegal and social security disability is a federal program. Second, remember that every social security judge is different. They each have their own opinions and biases. If the judge does not believe that the medical use of marijuana should be legal it may affect the judge’s decision. Some judges are fine with it, some aren’t. Finally, if you are going to use medical marijuana consider ways that you can show its use is for legitimate medical purposes. For example, make sure you have a medical marijuana card, that you get it from a dispensary, and that its consumption is being prescribed by a doctor. Some doctors are even willing to write letters explaining why the use of marijuana is appropriate. Make sure that all your doctors know about it. Many pain management doctors for example will not allow you to be on both narcotics and marijuana. If you are on both marijuana and narcotics and your doctor gets you in trouble for it, it could really hurt your credibility and ultimately whether you are approved for benefits. In, sum proceed carefully and at your own risk.