New Mexico: Appellate Court Says Employer Must Reimburse Injured Worker For Cost of Medical Marijuana

In spite of the fact that the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. § 811, does not distinguish between recreational and medical use of marijuana—both violate the law—a New Mexico appellate court has held that an employer may nevertheless be required to reimburse an injured employee for the expense of medical marijuana used pursuant to state’s Compassionate Use Act, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 26–2B–1 to –7, et seq., which decriminalizes marijuana use in some limited circumstances.  The decision appears to be the first such holding at an appellate level in the United States.  The employer argued that the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act did not recognize medical marijuana as a legitimate medical expense, that the WCJ’s order requiring the reimbursement essentially required the employer to violate the federal CSA and that the WCJ’s order violated public policy. The appellate court disagreed, holding the Workers’ Compensation Act could be construed so as to allow the use of medical marijuana in the treatment of an appropriate injury or condition, that such did not violate public policy, and that the employer had not shown that its reimbursement actions would violate any statute, state or federal.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is a leading commentator and expert on the law of workers’ compensation.

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See Vialpando v. Ben’s Automotive Servs., 2014 N.M. App. LEXIS 50 (May 19, 2014) [2014 N.M. App. LEXIS 50 (May 19, 2014)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 94.03 [94.03]

For a more detailed discussion of the case, see http://www.workcompwriter.com/new-mexico-court-orders-employer-to-reimburse-worker-for-medical-marijuana-2/

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.

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