New Mexico Cannabis Company Takes Top Insurance Companies to Court

Cannabis can do so many things. It can lighten your mood, change your mind, quiet your thoughts, and process your feelings all at once, if you get the right kind of strain. Depending on how a recent case in New Mexico pans out, cannabis could add one more attribute to its list. 

Precedent Setting. 

CEO Duke Rodriguez, his cannabis company Ultra Health, and a handful of additional plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit asking the district court to order health insurers to cover the cost of medical marijuana, specifically when it comes to the treatment of behavioral health conditions. In the lawsuit Rodriguez and his team are not only seeking to have 100 percent of medically necessary cannabis covered by insurance, but is consequently seeking damages for the 6 plaintiffs, one of whom is District 26 Senator Jacob Candelaria who have already had to pay out of pocket. 

Wait, there’s more. 

The lawsuit, which was filed in district court on Friday, also seeks the “disgorgement of millions of dollars in excess profits and revenues retained by the defendants.” In legalese, disgorgement refers to requiring a party who profits from illegal or wrongful acts (in this case the insurance companies) to give up any profits he or she made as a result of his or her illegal or wrongful conduct. The purpose of this remedy is to prevent unjust enrichment.

There are currently seven insurance companies named in the suit with Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Molina Healthcare, and Cigna among them – and with the State Regulation and Licensing reporting upwards of $20 million in cannabis sales per month, the damages assessed on behalf of the plaintiffs could reach somewhere in the range of $10 million dollars, though that assessment will be determined by the jury involved. 

As this was just recently filed, this will be an ongoing story that we will be following, and reporting with updates as it comes. 

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Chicana journalist, editor, educator, and organizer in Sacramento whose sole focus is to shed light on stories on our most impacted and marginalized communities, but even more importantly, for those stories to humanize those normally left out. She is an Ida B Wells Investigative Journalism Fellow 2022 Finalist, a member of the Parenting Journalists Society, and has bylines in The Courier, The Sacramento Bee, The Americano, Submerge Magazine among others.

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