A New Mexico district court judge may have just changed the face of the medical cannabis game by ordering the state’s Medical Cannabis Program to start issuing medical cards to out of state residents.
Before July 2019, New Mexico’s medical cannabis laws stated that patients must be a resident of the state to qualify. However, when updates were made to the law that generically defined qualifying patients as a “person,” (not as a New Mexico resident), questions of whether or not non-residents could become patients in the state began to arise.
Duke Rodriguez, president and CEO of Ulta Health, a medical cannabis company, is one of the strongest advocates. He endorses the change in the state’s current laws, and believes out-of-staters should be recognized as patients; Rodriguez even bought internet and radio ads promoting the change. However, the Department of Health argued the program would never expand outside the state. Now, Sante Fe district Judge Bryan Biedschield made ruled on the subject, and the law became clear.
Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, who sponsored the bill, claimed that the change was originally intended to cover “reciprocal patients,” or qualified out-of-state medical cannabis patients looking to purchase the plant in New Mexico. Judge Biedschield dismissed the claim, stating, “The plain language of the current definition of ‘qualified patient’ indicates that the qualified patients need not to be a New Mexico resident,” Biedscheid said, according to The NM Political Report. “[If reciprocal patients] were merely a subset of qualified patients, there would be no need to grant them separate explicit exemptions,” he added.
Biedscheid also noted that the intent of the law is to expand access to people who spend time in the state, but aren’t residents, such as scientists, students, and business professionals.
On account of Judge Biedscheid’s compelling argument, the state could be forced to expand their medical program to patients across the country. The DOH and Medical Cannabis Program have until August 19 to file a response regarding their opposition. Be sure to check back for updates.