December 2020 Update ‌‌ 

  • Political Doings – Marijuana Passes With Big Numbers
  • Where We Stand – MSIA Public Policy Positions
  • Kids Chance of Montana Needs Your Help

As always, any questions, need for more information or background, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  We hope you had a great and safe Thanksgiving and our best wishes to you and your families for a very merry (and safe!) Christmas.  Peter  406-431-7220

  • Political Doings – Marijuana Passes With Big Numbers

Again this year Montana has provided greater freedom for the use and possession of marijuana.  This is at least the third time Montanans have voted in favor of an initiative which provides for the use of marijuana. 

Montana is not alone.  Health-e-Systems, a new member this year, recently published a white paper on marijuana and the laws surrounding its’ use around the country,  And just at the end of last week, the US House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (the MORE Act), marking the first time a marijuana decriminalization bill has passed either house of the federal legislature.  The MORE act will not be acted on by the Senate prior to their recess this year.  Regardless of the lack of federal decriminalization, it is becoming a legal drug in the states.  Health-e-Systems reports 41 states have passed laws permitting its’ use as a medical treatment.  Six states have provided, either by statute or court decision that their workers compensation system reimburse for the use of medical marijuana (CT, ME, MA, MS, NJ & NM).  New Mexico went further by including marijuana on their medical fee schedule.  15 states, including Montana, now have passed laws allowing for recreational use and possession of marijuana.

The fact that the drug may be legal in the state, or other states, does not take away the significant issues its’ use raises.  Impaired workers are unsafe workers.  One of the issues we have with marijuana is there is no standardized system of testing for impairment levels, like a blood alcohol content test.  As well THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, remains in the blood stream for some time even after its’ effects have worn off.  Therefore using a THC drug screen, as a measure of impairment does not work.  I recently provided a workers’ compensation update to a national group and identified the next issue we will face, as employers, is the limitation on being able to take adverse actions against someone because they have used marijuana.  Washington D.C. recently enacted a law that would prohibit adverse actions if THC were present on a drug test for a municipal employee who was enrolled in a recognized medical marijuana program.  

We raise these questions not because we have answers.  We do not.  However, we must address them.  There are more calls to dedicate funding into research and studies into marijuana use and its impacts on impairment and have some answers before we go too much further.  

  • The Legislature and New Governor

As I write this the House and Senate are holding their Rules Committee meetings, identifying how the legislative session will be run.  The majority is willing to provide for remote participation, but does not seem willing to go so far as to require masks of congregation limitations.  Susan Good-Giese, a Lewis and Clark Commissioner and past chair of the Republican Party, has shared her thoughts that an in person session will happen, despite requests from the County Health Department and the mayors of both Helena and East Helena.  

Governor-Elect Greg Gianforte will have veto-proof majorities in both he House and the Senate.  In the two MSIA Update Extras sent out last month we identified who the Governor-Elect was leaning on for some of his appointments that would impact workers’ compensation in the state, who the legislative leadership and committee chairs would be.  Regardless, the expectation is there will be a change in regulatory leadership and direction for the first time in 16 years.  No names for Executive branch leadership positions have been provided for the Department of Labor and Industry yet.  We also do not know if or how the Labor Management Advisory Council will continue.  LMAC has operated and existed based on Gubernatorial appointment.  

  • Where We Stand – MSIA Public Policy Positions is about to launch.  Among the items available on the web-site will be a statement of our position on some of the public policy issues.  Attached is the pdf document of those statements on 

  • Mental/Mental and Mental – Physical and PTSD Injuries 
  • Medical Marijuana in Workers’ Compensation 
  • Expansion of Presumptive Diseases for Fire Fighters 
  • Coverage for Volunteer Firefighters 
  • Electronic Signatures
  • Requirement for Medical Documentation When Both Parties Agree Benefits Should Continue
  • COVID-19  Coverage Presumptions
  • Subrogation in Workers’ Compensation, and 
  • Post Offer, Pre Hire Impairment Disclosure of Pre-existing Conditions.  

While some of these issues go to the heart of workers compensation, others are more run of the mill or specific to the Montana system.  We think the proper action on these will help the Montana workers’ compensation system, work better for Montana’s workers, Montana’s economy and Montana’s employers.  

  • Kids Chance of Montana Needs Your Help

Kids’ Chance of Montana is making a difference in the lives of children impacted by workplace injury or death of a parent. Kids’ Chance provides post K-12 educational scholarships to approved applicants.  (Ed. Note – Many of the MSIA members are active with the Kids Chance – Montana organization).

The scholarships make a huge difference to these kids. Kids’ Chance helps fill a void left by the workers’ compensation system by enabling many children to attend college or votech where they may not otherwise have had the resources to do so. Additional information about a few of our fantastic kids is at  Since our formation a couple of years ago in Montana, we have been fortunate to have provided 22 scholarships for $66,000.  We are changing lives.

Any amount donated helps the kids. We have held to the standard that 100% of the money donated to the scholarship fund goes to the kids. All board members and the ED Peter Van Nice are volunteers of time and resources. Further, with our affiliation with the national Kids Chance organization 100% of the administration expenses are covered by monies other than donated funds. Donations are 100% tax exempt as Kids’ Chance of Montana is a registered and approved non-profit.  Donations can be made through the web site at or by sending a check to the Executive Director Peter Van Nice @ Kids’ Chance of Montana  P O Box 7224  Helena, MT 59604.

  • Watch for an MSIA Update Extra this Month Announcing the new website!

Please stay safe and stay well, 

Peter Strauss, Executive Director

Montana Self Insurers Association

520 Monroe Ave

Helena, MT 59601