New Mexico has ruled out the enrollment of non-resident in their medical marijuana program. This week, New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a bill that denies issuance of medical marijuana cards to non-residents.
Last year the state approved a change in statute, which was signed by the governor, allowing out of state patients to enroll in the state’s medical marijuana program. And since September, more than 600 patients from Texas, Arizona, and other states have enrolled in the New Mexico medical marijuana program. Under the new law, the patients will not be able to renew their medical marijuana cards in New Mexico, but under the reciprocity rule, they will still be able to buy medical marijuana in New Mexico using their state’s medical marijuana cards.
New Mexico health officials later backtracked and said that the residency requirement provision was removed from the legislation unintentionally. They requested the lawmakers to reinstate the residency requirement this year and claimed that opening the state medical marijuana program to other states might attract federal intervention. Interstate transportation of marijuana is still illegal, and allowing non-residents access to the state’s medical marijuana program might tempt people to transport weed across the borders illegally.
On Monday, New Mexico approved the reinstatement of the residency requirement in a vote of 44-19. The state’s largest medical marijuana distributor, Ultra Health, was against the restoration of the residency requirement. The New Mexico governor also signed reciprocity rules allowing patients with medical marijuana cards from other states to access medical marijuana from New Mexico dispensaries.
The CEO of Ultra Health Duke Rodriguez challenged the claim of federal intervention before the lawmakers, noting that out of state patients adhere to the terms of New Mexico’s medical marijuana program as they seek relief from their health ailments such as cancer and other medical conditions that require marijuana prescriptions.
Speaking to the House committee on health policy, Rodriguez said that there is no threat of federal intervention.
Last year, Ultra Health went to court to compel the state to issue medical marijuana cards to non-residents and succeeded; however, their success was short-lived since the state approved a law reinstating the residency requirement. Ultra Health has more than 20 dispensaries within the state, and it has been in conflict with the state’s Health Department because it is pushing for an increase in marijuana production caps to ensure that the supply is sufficient to serve the patients.
During the residency reinstatement vote, Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf excused himself from the debate and the vote since he represents Ultra Health as a private attorney.
Non-residents who are already enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program and have medical marijuana cards would be allowed to use their cards for a period of three years with no chance of renewal, said the state’s Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel.
Four states border New Mexico, and all have legalized medical marijuana, but Texas is notable for only allowing the sale of medical marijuana containing low THC levels. And Colorado has legalized the recreational sale and use of marijuana.
It remains to be seen whether other sector players, such as HTC Extraction Systems (TSX.V: HTC) (OTCQB: HTPRF), will react to this measure that appears to take New Mexico a step back on matters of marijuana policy reform.
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