Does Using Marijuana Affect Your Social Security Disability Claim?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) takes drug and alcohol use into account when determining if you qualify for disability benefits. Many states have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, but it is still an illegal Schedule I substance under federal law.

Medical marijuana is legal here in the state of Missouri. That means you can use medical marijuana if you have a qualifying condition and have registered for a medical card. Qualifying medical conditions include but are not limited to cancer, epilepsy, intractable migraines, post-traumatic stress disorder, and glaucoma. 

Unfortunately, marijuana use has the potential to affect your disability claim since it remains illegal under federal law. 

How Does the SSA View Marijuana? 

Your use of marijuana, or another substance, may make your condition worse, or it may not affect your condition at all. When applying for Social Security disability benefits, the SSA can deny your claim if it determines that drug and alcohol use contribute to your condition.  

If you have a physical disability, it is much easier to determine whether your substance use affects your condition. Mental disabilities, like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, are harder to prove that substance use isn’t a factor. 

Mental Disorders & Substance Use

Many people who are diagnosed with psychiatric disorders also develop substance abuse disorders. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that substance use can contribute to the development of mental illnesses, just as mental illnesses and other risk factors can contribute to substance use. 

Some studies claim there is a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders. Others claim there is no association—only a connection between marijuana use and a higher risk of drug or alcohol dependence. 

The research surrounding marijuana is inconclusive; however, marijuana use can still hurt your disability claim. Many psychiatrists and psychologists believe substance use, including marijuana use, could contribute to mental conditions.

Social Security Eligibility

If you use drugs or alcohol, including marijuana, the SSA will want to know: 

  • Would your condition remain if you stopped using the substance?
  • Would you be able to work with your condition if you stopped using the substance? 
  • Is the substance causing your symptoms? 

When you apply for disability benefits, you should be honest about past and current substance use. You want to be careful with what you say, but you should never lie on your application. 

Does Having A Medical Marijuana Card Disqualify You?

Having a medical card cannot automatically disqualify you from benefits. To receive medical marijuana in Missouri, you must have authorization from your physician and be approved by the state. Medical marijuana use is seen in a much better light than recreational marijuana, which is still illegal in Missouri. 

As with any claim, your condition and treatments should be well-documented to bolster your case. You should show that you’ve tried other forms of treatment before trying medical marijuana. Note that you must seek medical treatment and participate in the treatments prescribed to you to receive benefits. Support from the physician overseeing your medical marijuana use will help your case. 

Will Medical Marijuana Affect Your Claim?

There is no black and white answer to whether your medical marijuana use will affect your disability claim. Each claim depends on the individual’s current condition and circumstances. 

Almost 70% of initial disability claims are denied—many due to a lack of medical evidence, incomplete application or failure to cooperate with a consultative exam. 

Getting legal help can increase your likelihood of approval. A lawyer will guide you through the application process and represent you in the appeals court if your claim is denied. 

Is it time to apply for disability?

Contact Reynolds and Gold. Let us help you with your case.

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