New Mexico Company Supports Medical Pot Patients With Workers’ Compensation Access

One company’s recent move into New Mexico will help medical cannabis patients receive proper coverage from their health insurance.
New Mexico

Bennabis Health recently announced that its medical cannabis program is now available to patients living in New Mexico. The company has partnered with AltaVida Dispensary, located in Albuquerque, to help aid medical cannabis patients, specifically with workers’ compensation cases involving a patient seeking to use cannabis as medicine for chronic pain.

“This is a tremendously exciting step in the growth of Bennabis Health as a visionary company clearing a path for those who can benefit most from medical cannabis where coverage is not otherwise available,” said Bennabis Health president Don Parisi. “Opening our network in New Mexico with AltaVida helps us progress in our mission to achieve medical cannabis benefits across the country.”

New Mexico’s Workers’ Compensation states that medical cannabis can be used by an injured worker “when deemed ‘reasonable and necessary care’ under the Workers’ Compensation Act.” However, patients have to pay out of pocket and are later reimbursed.

“In certain states like New Mexico and New Jersey, workers’ compensation claims cases can require medical marijuana costs be reimbursed by the carrier when it offers reasonable and necessary treatment as an appropriate alternative to opioids,” a Bennabis Health press release states. “However, in these cases the injured worker would have to pay out-of-pocket a substantial amount per month for their medical marijuana, and then seek reimbursement from their payor.”

Bennabis Health offers what they call a “layer of protection between the dispensary and the payor” through its membership program and a team of health insurance and cannabis industry professionals. One of its founders, Anne M. Davis, originally discovered cannabis as a treatment for her multiple sclerosis but her health insurance didn’t cover her switch to medical cannabis because it’s a federally illegal substance and Schedule I drug.

Earlier this year in March, the company partnered with a New Jersey dispensary to offer similar benefits prior to its expansion into New Mexico.

Adult-use sales began in New Mexico on April 1, 2022, but the state has had its medical cannabis program in place since 2010 (technically, its earliest cannabis-related legislation was established in 2007, called the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act). Since then, state law has undergone a few revisions, such as addressing shortages of supply in 2018 by increasing the plant cultivation limit from 450 to 2,500. In 2019, the state expanded patient rights, and also added new qualifying conditions for medical cannabis use.

Most recently, the New Mexico Cannabis Control Division reported on sales for the month of November, which shows a decrease in medical cannabis sales and a steady increase in adult-use sales. Medical cannabis sales were recorded at $14 million, which was $660,000 less than was collected in October. Back in April 2022 when adult-use sales began, medical cannabis sales were recorded at $17 million.

As of Dec. 5, the state has also begun issuing medical cannabis cards digitally.

On Dec. 6, the University of New Mexico (UNM) announced that one of its engineering professors, Nathan Jackson, is a principal investigator on a project that aims to create a way to make cannabis-based vaping safer. “Every vaping tool functions by heating the liquid to greater than 200 degrees Celsius, which creates toxic byproducts, which then enter the aerosol droplets that are inhaled,” Jackson said. “Our technology uses a different mechanism to create the aerosol that does not require heating, so it could potentially eliminate the harmful byproducts.” The project is called “Droplet and Metal Particle Analysis of ENDS,” which received a pilot award from the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Our technology uses a silicon substrate, where no metal is in contact with the liquid and it uses less heat, so potentially we can reduce the health risks associated with vaping,” Jackson explained. “Also, our technology can generate micro-scale droplets instead of the nano-scale droplets found in current vaping tools, so that means that droplets are less likely to enter the blood stream and cluster together, which could also result in safer aerosols.”

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