Medical cannabis recommended by a physician must be paid for by the patient’s employer and insurer when its used to treat a work-related injury, the New Mexico Court of Appeals has ruled. The ruling will set immediate precedent across the state.
The case was brought forth by Gregory Vialpando, who argued that he should be reimbursed for the medical cannabis he purchased, which he used to treat the high-intensity pain that came from the result of failed spinal surgeries caused by a work-related back injury.
The court ruled that Vialpando met the required threshold for receiving reimbursement under New Mexico’s workers’ compensation laws, given his physician diagnosed medical cannabis as “reasonable and necessary” for his treatment.
Vialpando’s employer (at the time of the incident), Ben’s Automotive Services, and his health care provider, Redwood Fire & Casualty, argued that medical cannabis should be treated as a prescription drug, meaning it would require a pharmacist or health care provider to dispense.
The court, however, ruled that “medical marijuana is not a prescription drug… Indeed, medical marijuana is a controlled substance and is a drug. Instead of a written order from a health care provider, it requires the functional equivalent of a prescription – certification to the program. Although it is not dispensed by a licensed pharmacist or health care provider, it is dispensed by a licensed producer through a program authorized by the Department of Health”.
Vialpando’s employer and insurer also argued that reimbursing him would require them to commit a federal crime, which the court rejected, saying; “Although not dispositive, we note that the Department of Justice has recently offered what we view as equivocal statements about state laws allowing marijuana use for medical and even recreational purposes.”
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