Tag Archives: Department of Justice

Workers’ Compensation to Cover Medical Marijuana in New Mexico

According to the Courthouse News Service, medical marijuana recommended by a physician for an injured patient’s pain must be paid for by the patient’s employer and insurer, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled.

Despite marijuana’s federal classification as a controlled substance, the court concluded that New Mexico law grants Gregory Vialpando reimbursement for medical marijuana to treat the high-intensity pain that followed failed spinal surgeries caused by a workplace back injury. As the ruling states, Vialpando met the required threshold for payments under New Mexico’s workers’ compensation laws when his physician diagnosed medical marijuana as reasonable and necessary for his treatment. The August 29 decision is based on a lower court finding that Vialpando’s participation in the New Mexico Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Program constitutes reasonable and necessary medical care, the requirement set for reimbursement by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act.

Vialpando’s employer at the time of the incident, Ben’s Automotive Services, and health care provider, Redwood Fire & Casualty, argued that medical marijuana should be treated as a prescription drug. If it were, it would require a pharmacist or health care provider to dispense, which New Mexico’s medical marijuana program does not have, and thus, could not be paid for by worker’s compensation.

However, the appeals court found that although “medical marijuana is not a prescription drug,” if it were, “our analysis would lead to the same conclusion.” “Indeed, medical marijuana is a controlled substance and is a drug. Instead of a written order from a health care provider, it requires the functional equivalent of a prescription – certification to the program. Although it is not dispensed by a licensed pharmacist or health care provider, it is dispensed by a licensed producer through a program authorized by the Department of Health,” the court wrote.

Vialpando’s employer and insurer also argued that reimbursements would force them to commit a federal crime, or at least violate federal public policy. The appeals court rejected that, as well.

“Although not dispositive, we note that the Department of Justice has recently offered what we view as equivocal statements about state laws allowing marijuana use for medical and even recreational purposes.”

In terms of the next steps for New Mexico’s medical marijuana policies, the state is heading in the right direction considering legalization.

 

Delaware Governor Needs to Ease Plant Limits

Markell
Gov. Jack Markell

MPP welcomed Delaware Gov. Jack Markell’s August announcement that he would implement the compassion center program, but our enthusiasm was tempered by the fact that he did so on the condition that the program was initially limited to one compassion center that could grow only 150 plants. Since his announcement, the Department of Justice has released new guidance, which makes it clear that these restrictions are unnecessary. If you are a Delaware resident, please call the governor’s office and urge him to remove this limit.

The plant limit will surely result in shortages, leaving patients without access to their medicine. Even states like New Mexico, where there are 23 dispensaries, have experienced shortagesPatients in Delaware need a viable program.

The medical marijuana law already limits the number of compassion centers to three for the entire state. The Department of Justice has indicated that plant numbers and size of dispensaries will not be triggers for enforcement action and other states have proven that these tax-paying entities can be properly regulated. The cap does nothing but jeopardize patient access.

John McCain Ready for Legalization?!?

According to Talking Points Memo, Sen. John McCain made some comments Thursday that some may find surprising:

McCain_Sept2013

McCain’s comments could not have been better timed. Next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Justice Department’s new policy allowing states to move forward with taxing and regulating marijuana. Arizona’s other senator, Jeff Flake, is a member of that committee. Sen. Flake will have the opportunity to question Justice Department officials and help shape the future of federal policy on marijuana.

MPP’s Dan Riffle on Fox Business Network

On Tuesday, MPP director of federal policy Dan Riffle spoke with Fox Business Network about the Department of Justice announcement last week that the federal government will not interfere with the implementation of legal marijuana businesses in Colorado and Washington.

Here is the segment from “Markets Now”:

Feds Approve Marijuana Legalization Laws!

At a press briefing Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it will allow Colorado and Washington to move forward with implementation of laws establishing state-regulated systems of marijuana production and distribution.

“Today’s announcement is a major and historic step toward ending marijuana prohibition,” said MPP director of federal policy Dan Riffle. “The Department of Justice’s decision to allow implementation of the laws in Colorado and Washington is a clear signal that states are free to determine their own policies with respect to marijuana.

“We applaud the Department of Justice and other federal agencies for its thoughtful approach and sensible decision. It is time for the federal government to start working with state officials to develop enforcement policies that respect state voters, as well as federal interests. The next step is for Congress to act. We need to fix our nation’s broken marijuana laws and not just continue to work around them.”

james cole
Dep. Attn. Gen. James Cole

While the memo reiterates that marijuana use and distribution are still in violation of federal law, it lays out the priorities for the Department of Justice in states where marijuana policy differs from federal law:

 

  • the distribution of marijuana to minors;
  • revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
  • the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
  • state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
  • violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
  • growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
  • preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.

After the last memo issued by Cole regarding state medical marijuana law and federal enforcement, states with very clear policies in place to control and regulate marijuana distribution saw little or no interference. This latest memo seems to echo that position in the cases of Washington and Colorado for adult use, so hopefully we can expect the Department of Justice to continue this trend moving forward.