New Mexico medical insurers are in a Catch-22.
On the one hand, marijuana remains a controlled substance under U.S. law as it has been since 1970. In fact, it’s classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning “it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision,” according to a U.S. Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration fact sheet.
“Although some states within the United States have allowed the use of marijuana for medicinal purpose, it is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that has the federal authority to approve drugs for medicinal use in the U.S.,” the fact sheet continues.
On the other hand, medical insurers in New Mexico have recently been sued by plaintiffs who argue they should shoulder the cost of medical cannabis because it’s a behavioral health service. The 2021 Senate Bill 317 requires insurers to cover 100% of behavioral health services, including prescribed treatments of behavioral health conditions.
Plaintiffs, including a state senator in the Medical Cannabis Program, seek reimbursement for past and future purchases of medical marijuana related to their behavioral health expenses. The class-action suit could have far-reaching consequences, with 134,000 patients in the medical pot program and an ounce of medical weed running $250.
Insurers, like banks, rightfully don’t know what to do, caught between state law that legalizes and federal law that does not. It is past time for federal guidance. We hope the state’s congressional delegation is listening.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.