NM Debates Medical Marijuana Workers Compensation BillFebruary 8, 2016
A New Mexico workers compensation bill would remove the requirement that employers reimburse injured employees for expenses related to their medical marijuana prescriptions. Supporters of the bill stated that it would resolve any potential conflicts between the state’s medical marijuana laws and federal statutes banning the drug. Opponents of the workers compensation bill claim that it would force workers to rely on addictive prescription medications for their pain management needs.
Details of the Workers Compensation Bill
The workers compensation bill would not ban the use of medical marijuana. However, workers would not be allowed to receive compensation for their medical marijuana usage from state-sponsored insurance. State Rep. Randal Crowder, R-Clovis, sponsored the workers compensation bill. He told reporters that he proposed the bill out of concern that insurers would leave the state’s workers compensation program over the medical marijuana provisions. Rep. Crowder claimed that the insurers would leave the state out of fear of prosecution under federal drug laws.
Lawsuit Prompts Workers Compensation Bill
An injured worker who sued the state has become a leading opponent of the workers compensation bill. Gregory Vialpando and his attorneys spoke to reporters about the workers compensation bill. Mr. Vialpando won a 2014 case when the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled that he was entitled to workers compensation payments for his medical marijuana treatments. The new bill would force patients like Mr. Vialpondo either to pay for their treatments out of pocket, or accept compensation for prescription pain medication.
Workers Compensation Bill Opponent: Prescription Pain Meds “Garbage”
Although the committee considering the workers compensation bill voted largely on party lines, some House Republicans mentioned their problems with the proposal. Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, told reporters that his wife had struggled with addiction to prescription pain medications until ten years ago. In a committee meeting on the workers compensation bill, he called opioid pain medications “garbage.” He also voiced his support for patients like Mr. Vialpondo for using medical marijuana over addictive prescription pain medications.
Workers Compensation Bill Highlights Medical Marijuana Conflict
Despite his support for the idea of medical marijuana, Rep. Pacheco said that the conflict between state and federal law would force him to vote in favor of the workers compensation bill. “It’s going to hurt me inside to vote for this,” he said. Another Republican who spoke out against the workers compensation bill was House Majority Floor Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque. “Once again, the federal government has put us in a very difficult spot,” he said.
Source: New Mexico Political Report
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