New Mexico Judge Rules Non-Resident Medical Marijuana Patients Legal

The judge’s ruling upholds a June rule change permitting nonresidents to obtain medical cannabis ID cards in New Mexico.

In New Mexico, a legal dispute is brewing over whether or not out-of-state medical cannabis patients can access caregivers and dispensaries. New Mexico legalized medical marijuana in 2007 and has since grown to 74,100 registered patients. But a new law that went into effect this past June could grow further grow program, as it revised the definition of “qualified patient” to remove a residency requirement. Previously, patients had to be New Mexico residents to register with the medical cannabis program.

But a recent decision by District Judge Bryan Biedscheid upholding the new law opens New Mexico’s medical cannabis program to anyone with a qualifying condition, regardless of where they live. Now, there’s no longer any restriction on out-of-state residents obtaining medical marijuana cards in New Mexico. The Department of Health, however, is pushing back against the judge’s ruling, claiming that encourages patients to transport medical cannabis across state lines in violation of federal and state law.

Legal Dispute Erupts Over Who Can Access Medical Cannabis in New Mexico

As more U.S. states bring legal medical cannabis programs online, the issue of who can and who can’t access dispensaries is becoming increasingly urgent. Some states have enacted strict residency requirements that restrict medical cannabis to patients who live in-state. But other programs have moved to enact “reciprocity” policies that permit patients with out-of-state registrations to obtain medical cannabis in places they don’t live.

Patient advocacy groups have been pushing for the expansion of reciprocity, since it means that medical cannabis patients won’t lose access to needed medication when they travel or visit other places.

New Mexico’s new law, however, goes one step further. It’s not just that out-of-state medical cannabis patients can access dispensaries. Beyond that, non-residents with qualifying conditions under New Mexico law can obtain a medical cannabis license that’s valid in-state. In other words, New Mexico’s medical cannabis program is now accessible to anyone, so long as they have an approved condition.

Judge’s Ruling Overturns Dept. of Health Denial of Out-of-State Applications

On August 5, New Mexico District Judge Bryan Biedscheid ordered Department of Health officials to issue medical cannabis ID cards to any qualifying patient, no matter where they live. The ruling stems from an emergency petition filed with the court by three out-of-state residents whose medical cannabis applications were denied by the DOH on account of their non-resident status.

One of the plaintiffs in the petition, Arizona resident and Ultra Health, LLC CEO Duke Rodriguez—who used to be a human services secretary for the state of New Mexico—described the judge’s ruling as “the best outcome possible,” adding that it “bodes well for nonresident patients having uninterrupted access to medical cannabis as the Legislature fully intended.”

But the New Mexico Department of Health is arguing that the Legislature did not intend to open the program to nonresidents. The DOH says that welcoming out-of-state patients seeking medical cannabis could increase the risk of patients trafficking products across state lines. Judge Biedscheid has given the DOH until August 19 to make its case against the ruling. The DOH has stated that it will file a response arguing to overturn the ruling by the deadline.

If the ruling sticks, it could dramatically change the size of New Mexico’s medical cannabis program. The state shares a border with five states with legalized medical marijuana (including Colorado). But Texas‘ medical cannabis program only permits patients to access CBD oil, not products containing THC. And according to a market report commissioned by Ultra Health, there are about two million Texas residents within a two-hour drive of New Mexico.

If even a small fraction of those residents travelled to New Mexico to obtain medical cannabis, the state’s program could grow substantially, brining a range of economic benefits with it.

Drury, ByAdam. “New Mexico Judge Rules Non-Resident Medical Marijuana Patients Legal.” Green Rush Daily, 8 Aug. 2019, greenrushdaily.com/health/medical-marijuana/new-mexico-judge-rules-non-resident-medical-marijuana-patients-legal/.

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