Court forces employer to pay for worker’s medical marijuana

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Is this a world-first? A New Mexico appellate court has forced an employer to reimburse an injured employee for the cost of his medical marijuana under workers’ compensation law.

In June 2000, Gregory Vialpando injured his lower back at work, and eight years later doctors gave the bad news that he had recovered as much as was possible and that his body was permanently disabled. In a statement, his doctor testified that of the thousands of patients he had seen, he estimated that Vialpando suffered more intense, frequent and enduring physical pain than anyone he had ever treated.

Last year, Vialpando applied to use medical marijuana, and was approved by the workers’ compensation judge on his case. However, the employer appealed on the basis that marijuana did not count as a legitimate medical service from a health care provider for workers’ compensation purposes.

But the appellate court denied the employer’s case, saying the medicine was “reasonable and necessary”, and that the employer would be committing no federal crime by reimbursing the injured worker for its use.

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