Help us support local, independent news.
100% of reader donations support our local journalists.
For less than a subscription to the Journal for one reader, you can keep our news free for everyone in ABQ.
Lawmakers Promise Protections For Medical
New Mexico State Rep. Javier Martinez told lawmakers that he plans to introduce a bill during the upcoming 60-day legislative session that will legalize recreational cannabis.
“Legalization is coming,” said Martinez (D-Albuquerque) during a legislative committee hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 17. “Here in New Mexico, I think people are ready for it.”
The forthcoming bill has been the talk of the New Mexico cannabis community since the last session, when a much-publicized bill died before the Senate Finance Committee. Although it was a bit demoralizing, many advocates had been criticizing the bill for trying to create a state-run cannabis industry that would have been closed to private entrepreneurs. The hope was that the relative success of the bill—it was supported by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her legalization task force, as well as a number of lawmakers—would put enough support behind this next one and make it more acceptable to residents.
Martinez says the new bill will be slimmer than the last one. He said it will contain provisions that will take money generated by the recreational cannabis market and use it to bolster the medical cannabis market by eliminating the gross receipts tax on medical cannabis products and assisting low-income patients.
Former Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith—the man who let the last bill die—lost the Democratic primary to the more progressive Neomi Martinez-Parra earlier this year. This alone could give enough leeway for us to see the new bill squeeze through.
Board Recommends Increasing Purchase Limits
The state’s medical cannabis advisory board is recommending that the state allow cannabis patients to purchase more cannabis at a time than the current rules allow.
According to the Associated Press, the advisory board, which is made up of medical professionals, voted in favor of the limit increase last week after hearing from advocates who compared New Mexico’s policy to other states.
The board is now recommending that the state change its rules to allow patients to purchase up to 15 ounces of medical cannabis in a 90-day period—nearly double the current limit. Advocates say the new limit would make New Mexico’s policy line up with those of Nevada and Arizona. Many other states allow for even higher limits, however.
The final decision will be made by the state’s health secretary.
Many producers say increasing purchase limits will understandably increase demand and are asking that the state consider increasing production limits as well. The board will reportedly address supply issues at a meeting in December.
Opinion: Allow Residents to Grow Weed
An opinion piece that recently ran in the Santa Fe New Mexican by Arthur Mayer highlighted an often overlooked aspect of cannabis law: home growing.
Mayer argues that excluding the option for consumers to grow their own cannabis from a legalization bill can only be motivated by a desire for profits. “In the current cutting of the pie, only two groups will have a slice: the government and the producers/dispensaries.” As he points out, this could potentially open the door to profiteering and politically motivated fund management.
It’s not exactly clear why lawmakers would want to bar residents from growing cannabis for personal use. Advocates are often so excited by the prospect of legalization that they’re willing to accept what might be seen as small compromises. But blocking free Americans from growing a literal weed on their own private property is a terrible policy choice and a huge compromise—even if it guarantees that adults can buy recreational marijuana.
DOH Limits Reciprocity
The New Mexico Department of Health recently announced that it will be holding a rule change hearing to consider limiting who can take part in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program through its reciprocity rules.
The proposed changes would bar New Mexico residents who are not members of a Native tribe, nation or pueblo from purchasing medical cannabis through the reciprocity rules. This would keep New Mexico residents from potentially enrolling in other states’ medical cannabis programs and then buying cannabis here.
The agency has been bucking the reciprocity provisions since they went into effect in July. In October the department attempted to enact an emergency rule change that would have limited reciprocal patients to those who could produce a card—and no other form of ID—identifying them as residents of the district where they were enrolled as cannabis patients. A state district court judge ruled against DOH, though, and ordered the department to start accepting reciprocal patients again. DOH has reportedly filed to appeal the decision.
The bizarre legal permutations being discussed in these cases merely highlight the absurdity of leaving cannabis policy up to states and makes the argument for legalization at the federal level even more powerful.
NM Cardholders At All-Time High
According to the NMDOH, the number of patients enrolled in the state Medical Cannabis Program reached an all-time high of 100,021 people last month. That’s nearly five percent of the state’s entire population.
Patients suffering from PTSD and severe chronic pain made up the largest portion of those enrolled—53,397 of the former and 31,479 of the latter.
This recent boost doesn’t include the number of out-of-state reciprocal patients the New Mexico program serves. [ ]