A New Mexico judge has ruled that recent changes to the regulations affecting the state’s medical marijuana program mean that out of state residents will now qualify to buy cannabis at government-run dispensaries.
“The [word] replacement is a clear sign of legislative intent to widen the reach of eligibility for the New Mexico medical cannabis program,” wrote Santa Fe Judge Bryan Biedscheid, who presided over the proceeding.
The state senator who sponsored the legislation that changed the language of the bill, Democrat Jerry Ortíz y Pino, said that the revision was originally due to a desire to cover individuals who had their medical marijuana cards in other states, or “reciprocal patients.”
But Biedscheid said that the current language means that it is a violation for the state’s Department of Health and its Medical Cannabis Program to even require a New Mexico ID card in registering for the medical marijuana program. The judge suggested that college students and visiting professionals would be the beneficiaries of the expansion of access.
But the apparent policy shift has raised alarms in some of New Mexico’s neighboring states, and particularly in Texas, whose medical marijuana program is strictly limited to cannabis oil with a THC content of .5 percent or less.
“The law in Texas is clear, possession of any amount of marijuana is illegal without ambiguity and any violations are enforced accordingly,” the El Paso Police Department said in a statement to the NM Political Report. That publication also raised the issue that the expansion in access could affect New Mexico’s cannabis supply, particularly as residents of the area of the state closest to the Texas and New Mexico borders have already complained of insufficient supplies of cannabis.
Law enforcement agents are not the only ones concerned that the policy shift could lead to medical marijuana patients illegally crossing state lines with their medicine. “While we want patients to have access to medical cannabis, it is problematic that they would have to cross state lines,” NORML Texas executive director commented. “This would lead them to break federal law.”
Texas is also in the process of reconsidering its marijuana laws, and in June passed HB 3703, which will expand the list of qualifying conditions to include epilepsy, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, and other health issues. The Senate surprisingly passed the legislation unanimously, but did greatly reduce its scope before giving it the go-ahead, maintaining the state’s ban on any medical marijuana product that exceeds the .5 percent THC limit.
New Mexico’s legalization mission has been quite eventful in 2019, its House of Representatives having passed HB 356 regulating recreational cannabis just last March before the Senate finance committee declined to give the legislation a hearing during the last days of its session. That bill would have authorized the right of adults 21 years old and over to possess one ounce of weed, which is available via retail stores that are operated by the state government.
The state did grow its 73,000-patient medical marijuana program in June with the addition of six more qualifying health conditions, among them opioid dependency, autism, and Alzheimer’s. That expansion brings the list of qualifying conditions in the state up to 28.