Workers' Comp Legal Update

New Mexico Tries to Undo Marijuana Mandate

Bills in the state's House and Senate would free payers from any obligation to reimburse for medical marijuana.
By: | March 25, 2016

Legislation in New Mexico seeks to take workers’ comp payers out of the medical marijuana equation. Bills in both the House and Senate would remove the requirement that medical cannabis is a reimbursable benefit for injured workers.

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The state became the first to adopt reimbursement rules and include medical cannabis in its fee schedule after several court decisions. Currently, the state allows reimbursement for up to 230 units per calendar quarter, approximately equal to 230 gram dry weight equivalent with the maximum reimbursable amount of $12.02 per unit. Legislation to change the requirement passed the state House and is in a Senate committee.

“A workers’ compensation carrier or an employer providing workers’ compensation benefits is not liable for a claim for reimbursement associated with medical cannabis,” House Bill 195 states in two separate sections of the legislation.

“If this quick and decisive action by the legislature to undo the court’s decision passes, it will serve as a strong precedent for other states with medical cannabis laws that the workers’ compensation industry is not prepared for medical marijuana to be a part of the treatment guidelines.”

“Nothing in this section shall be construed to require a workers’ compensation carrier or an employer providing workers’ compensation benefits to pay for costs associated with the purchase or use of medical cannabis,” it says in another section of the bill.

“If this quick and decisive action by the legislature to undo the court’s decision passes, it will serve as a strong precedent for other states with medical cannabis laws that the workers’ compensation industry is not prepared for medical marijuana to be a part of the treatment guidelines,” according to a legislative update from myMatrixx, a pharmacy benefit manager.

“While medical marijuana may soon not be a covered expense in New Mexico, this does not mean that the state has closed the door on the issue of medical marijuana in the workplace. The New Mexico Senate has introduced a memorial in 2016 asking the Workforce Solutions Department to study the discrimination that medical cannabis patients encounter in New Mexico.”

That legislation notes that nearly 20,000 state residents are actively enrolled in the medical cannabis program with enrollment increasing by more than 400 each month. It requests the department to consult with representatives from the Workers’ Compensation Administration, along with other entities deemed to have “expertise relating to the rights of medical cannabis patients.”

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Meanwhile, Hawaii is considering legislation to “dramatically increase the list of medical conditions for which medical marijuana may be used,” according to myMatrixx. One bill adds arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, and stress to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana may be authorized while a second would allow “low THC” marijuana to be used for any medical condition a physician determines would benefit.

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]