An employer must reimburse an injured employee for the cost of medical marijuana used to treat his condition, the New Mexico Court of Appeals has ruled.
The injured employee suffered severe back pain from a workplace injury and applied for approval of medical treatment for medical marijuana. He had been certified for the program by two physicians. The workers’ compensation judge found that the worker was “entitled to ongoing and reasonable medical care,” including medical marijuana, and ordered the employer to pay for the care.
Under the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act, “services” are defined as “health care services, . . . procedures, drugs, products or items provided to a worker by an health care provider, pharmacy, supplier, caregiver, or freestanding ambulatory surgical center which are reasonable and necessary for the evaluation and treatment of a worker with an injury or occupational disease. . . “
Based on this definition, the court found that medical marijuana is a product from a supplier that may be reasonable and necessary for an employee’s treatment.
The court also said it doesn’t matter that a doctor does not “prescribe” medical marijuana, but rather the employee gets certified to the New Mexico program. It is unnecessary that each and every service must be provided by a health care provider, it said.
The ruling is Vialpando v. Ben’s Auto. Servs., 2014 N.M. App. LEXIS 50 (N.M. Ct. App. May 19, 2014),
Expect employees in other states that allow medical marijuana to make similar arguments that they should be reimbursed under those states’ workers’ compensation laws.