SANTA FE, N.M. (CN) – A New Mexico judge has ruled the state’s medical marijuana program cannot exclude qualified patients who live outside the state.
Responding to a petition filed in July by three out-of-state residents who spend significant time in New Mexico, Judge Bryan Biedscheid in Santa Fe found recent changes to the state’s medical marijuana act do not specifically bar nonresidents from receiving medical marijuana cards in New Mexico.
The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, passed in 2007, governs New Mexico’s medical marijuana program. Under the original wording of the act, a qualified patient was defined as “a resident of New Mexico who has been diagnosed by a practitioner as having a debilitating medical condition and has received written certification and a registry identification card.”
But the Legislature changed the wording of the act during the 2019 legislative session, and now defines a qualified patient as “a person who has been diagnosed by a practitioner as having a debilitating medical condition and has received written certification and a registry identification card.”
Therefore, according to Biedscheid’s 20-page alternative writ of mandamus issued Monday, the state Department of Health Medical Cannabis Program must issue medical marijuana cards to any person who qualifies under the act’s conditions.
Biedscheid found this also means the medical cannabis program can no longer require a New Mexico driver’s license or state ID as part of the application process, which was previously a condition of application.
Plaintiff Duke Rodriguez, former New Mexico human services secretary and now an Arizona resident, told the Albuquerque Journal, “It’s unfortunate these matters have to be adjudicated in the courts when the law is clear and specific. This was the best outcome possible and bodes well for nonresident patients having uninterrupted access to medical cannabis as the Legislature fully intended.”
Rodriguez is president and CEO of Ultra Health, a prominent licensed medical marijuana provider in New Mexico.
The state Department of Health has until August 19 to file a response to the alternative writ.