Medical Marijuana Covered for Worker’s Comp in New Mexico

By Rebecca McCurry 10/10/2014

Even though it's still considered to be an illegal substance by the federal government, physician prescribed medical cannabis for in New Mexico is now covered under worker's compensation bylaws according to a recent verdict handed down by the court.


Gregory Vialpando used medical marijuana after his doctor recommended it to him for pain after he sustained a back injury while on the job earlier this year. New Mexico courts handed over a verdict that mandated Vialpando to be reimbursed for his medical marijuana because he “met the required threshold for payments under New Mexico’s workers’ compensation laws when his physician-diagnosed medical marijuana as reasonable and necessary for his treatment.” This means the employers and insurers would be responsible for paying for his treatment.


The argument by the court that ended with the final verdict explained, “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.”


At the time of his injuries, Vialpando worked as a mechanic for Ben's Automotive Services who is insured with Redwood Fire & Casualty. When the court proceedings began around May 2014, his Ben's Automotive Services objected to paying for his treatment due to the drug's “illegality under the federal law.” Vialpando's doctor stated that when he examined his patient, he found his pain to be “some of the most extremely high intensity, frequency, and duration of pain,” out of thousands of other patients.


On March 13, 2007, New Mexico legalized medical cannabis, and on July 1st of the same year, the bill became effective. Currently, 19 qualifying conditions can be treated with medical marijuana including conditions like chronic pain.


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