Of all the states, who would have guessed that New Mexico would be the hotbed of medical marijuana court decisions? Between the Vialpando v. Ben’s Automotive in May and the Maez v. Riley Industrial case, handed down earlier this month, New Mexico’s court of appeals appears to be one of the most pro-marijuana courts in the nation.
Back in May, when I first wrote about this issue, I wondered why the reasonableness of the marijuana treatment was not questioned, and our corporate counsel told me that surely there be additional case law. Sure enough, the court in Maez decided to take on the issue.
Maez suffered from an industrial accident and was treated by Dr. Reeve. Dr. Reeve prescribed a variety of medications, including several opioids. As required for patients on long-term opioid therapy, he performed regular urine drug tests. Maez tested positive for marijuana.
Typically, recreational marijuana use, or the use of any illicit substance, raises red flags with the prescriber. But not with Dr. Reeve!
Dr. Reeve informed Maez that, if he was going to use marijuana, he needed to have a medical marijuana license. Luckily for Maez, Dr. Reeve was happy to provide him with one. According to Dr. Reeve, “Patients are going to use cannabis either one way or the other. . . . If a patient requests that I sign [a license], I will sign it . . . but I’m not recommending . . . or in any way advocating for the use of medical cannabis.” Dr. Reeve also considers the use of medical marijuana to be the patient’s decision, “as it’s private and voluntary, and it’s not overseen by a physician.”
So the guy ended up on a medical marijuana regimen because of a failed drug test. That should be sufficient for the court to find in favor of the payer, right?
Nope. And it gets worse.
The court went on to rationalize Dr. Reeve’s actions as reasonable, stating that “[Dr. Reeve] adopted a treatment plan based on medical marijuana. He would not have done so if it were an unreasonable treatment.”
Imagine if that logic was applied to all workers’ comp medical treatment. The doc says it’s reasonable. . . so it is. State statutes and regulations have been evolving for more than a decade to specifically counter this argument. But not in New Mexico.
And it gets even worse.
To take this determination one step further, because the physician said it is Maez’s choice whether to use medical marijuana, the court, by default, has determined that the self-directed use of marijuana by this injured worker is reasonable because the physician signed off on it.
This is patient-directed care at its absolute worst.
To recap what led to this decision: illicit drug use, perpetrated by the injured worker, condoned by the doctor and supported by a court of law.
I wish I could tell you that marijuana should be the least of your concerns, but if this is the specious logic to which we’re beholden. . . we’ll need better guidelines, better tools and better lawyers.