For those of you aware of my particular political proclivities, you may be assuming this is a diatribe about current leadership issues within our nation. While my slightly to the right of Attila the Hun fiscal conservatism makes that likely, you would in this case be mistaken. Nor is this a follow up to my previous missive, "Underwriting Stupidity". The confluence of titles positing a possible connection is in this case an unfortunate coincidence. No, today we take a not so in depth yet scathing look into a court decision featured yesterday on our site. The article, courtesy of the Courthouse News Service, told us of a case in New Mexico where it was decided that an employer must now pay for medical marijuana for one of its injured employees.
For workers' compensation it is game time in the trenches, people.
Never mind that marijuana is still illegal by federal standards. Never mind that it is classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic. A dude need his meds, and the justices abide.
Even worse, the court actually ruled that New Mexico law entitled the man to "reimbursement for marijuana to treat the high-intensity pain that followed failed spinal surgeries for a workplace back injury". So, it wasn't just the workplace injury that will now require the employer to pay for a federally outlawed substance; it was the hatchet job some surgeon did on his back AFTER the accident that is causing the pain.
Fortunately failed back procedures are exceedingly rare in our industry. Hardly ever happen. Or was that the other way around? I can never keep that straight.
The New Mexico Court of Appeals rejected the employers argument that reasonable and necessary medical services must come from a health care provider, saying "By defining 'services' as including a product from a supplier that is reasonable and necessary for a worker's treatment, the regulations do not contemplate that every aspect of a worker's reasonable and necessary treatment be directly received from a health care provider. Such a requirement would be unworkable. A worker's treatment may well require services that are not available from a health care provider. The most obvious of such services may be medical supplies or equipment."
Good news for those auto body repair shops wishing to deploy frame straighteners for spinal alignments. Besides, I wasn't aware that marijuana fell under the category of "medical supplies or equipment".
Imagine, if you will, a world where employees not only "need" medical marijuana, such as the plethora of Californians with medical cards for their sudden onset glaucoma, but that the employer will have to pay for it if it can be shown work was the primary contributor to the "need". Imagine the response of employees when their company starts buying their co-workers pot. I see a surge in claim activity, that is certain.
I don't know about you, but I am buying stock in both Frito Lay and YUM Brands, the parent company to Taco Bell. Not only will an army of employer funded stoners ravage their products in a medically induced haze; by the courts standards, their products could also be ruled as "medically necessary".
All of this is playing against a backdrop of controversy as opponents point to a dearth of substantive studies demonstrating any real benefit from medical marijuana. That runs in direct opposition to public opinion, which seems to strongly skew towards support for its medical use. And as we all know, public opinion trumps science any day of the week, and a stoner denied is one with a seriously harsh mellow. You should see the comments from my last anti-pot posting. Those people have anger issues. But I digress.....
It is rare for a drug whose history has been entirely recreational to suddenly be considered a serious medical treatment. Of course, by most medical professionals, it isn't yet, but as the court said, medicine doesn't necessarily need to come from medical providers. What we have here is a medical treatment driven by popular opinion rather than strong science. And in an early legal round, employers have lost the battle and will have to start providing it to their workers when deemed "medically necessary".
I sense a rash of work related glaucoma in our future. And that, my friends, is the true audacity of dope.
There have been 4 comments made!
You must Login or Register in order to read and make comments!
Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
Bob has a couple unique personality characteristics. He firmly believes that everyone has the right to his (Bob's) opinion, and while he may not always be right, he is never in doubt. Enter at your own risk, and like all of our blog areas, we encourage you to read the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.
We're not responsible for this guy.....
Bob is an accomplished speaker for the workers' compensation industry. He is available for conferences, corporate events, children's birthday parties and Bar Mitzvahs. You may access his Speakers Brief here.