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Recreational Marijuana Use and Social Security Disability Claims

As 2020 began, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize the use of recreational marijuana.

Could that affect your disability claim? Well, like many things in Social Security disability law, the answer is “it depends.”

First, it’s important to remember that though marijuana may be legal in your state, it remains illegal at the federal level, which is where all disability claims are handled.

While the Social Security Administration hasn’t explicitly addressed the use of recreational (or even medical) marijuana by claimants, there is a longstanding policy to deny claims when drug or alcohol use is a “material factor” in the claim.

Essentially, what this means is that Social Security will not find you disabled if your disability is caused by ongoing drug or alcohol use or made worse by those substances. However, if you have stopped using drugs or alcohol and your condition does not improve, or gets worse, you can still be found disabled, even if those substances initially caused your impairment.

Marijuana use is hardly ever a material factor in cases involving physical impairments, but the agency can view it as an exacerbating factor in mental health cases.

The best way to address this is still receive a medical marijuana prescription from your physician as evidence that it is not material to your claim.

As for recreational use, administrative law judges in Illinois still seem to be working though exactly how to handle it, but the basic law remains the same. If a judge views your marijuana use as exacerbating your impairments, this will very likely be used as the basis to deny your claim, even if you live in a state where recreational use is legal.

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