Medical marijuana patients would be able to possess more cannabis and producers would eventually be able to grow more under a bill that cleared the state Senate on Monday by a wide margin. Senators voted 29-11 in favor of Senate Bill 177, sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque. If approved by the House of Representatives and signed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, it would change the state’s medical marijuana program to allow patients to have 5 ounces of cannabis, and it would allow producers to increase the number of plants they can grow when the number of patients in the program increases. Cannabis producers can now grow up to 450 plants. The bill comes as the number of patients in the program is exploding.
A Senate committee voted Wednesday in favor of a bill that would make changes to New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program, but some lawmakers were troubled by a section that would allow veterans to enroll without being diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition. One state senator who voted in favor of the measure said he might change his vote when the bill reaches the Senate floor. Senate Bill 8 — which would increase the amounts of marijuana patients could possess and producers could grow — would be the first legislative change to the medical marijuana program since it was approved 10 years ago, said Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, the bill’s sponsor. McSorley also carried the original medical marijuana bill that passed the Legislature in 2007. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-3 along party lines to send the bill to the full Senate.
The Senate Finance Committee went to work Friday to bridge the gap on the large budget deficits in both the current fiscal year and the recently completed fiscal year. The proposals to close the deficits came from expanding medical marijuana, taxing some internet sales and accelerating the phasing out of the hold-harmless provision for local governments. “If it looks like chaos, that’s what it is,” Senate Finance Committee chair John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, joked at the start of the productive meeting. Another meeting for the bills was scheduled for later Friday evening, with Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez saying the full Senate would hear the bills later that night. The committee passed seven bills in all, sending all seven to the Senate floor.
The New Mexico State Auditor’s Office called on two state agencies to look into a medical cannabis executive director who is accused of a conflict of interest related to audits. In letters to the Department of Health and the Public Accountancy Board, a group within the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department that oversees public accountants, the state Auditor’s office expressed concern that Vivian Moore, a certified public accountant, may have created a conflict of interest by conducting independent audits of medical cannabis producers. This is because Moore also is the executive director of Doña Ana County-based Mother Earth Herbs, Inc.
Mother Earth Herbs, Inc. is a medical marijuana distributor licensed by the state. The letters came from Special Investigations Director Kevin Sourisseau. Sourisseau wrote that his office was made aware of “independence issues” concerning Moore and the audits she has allegedly performed for other producers.
In New Mexico, state regulated programs are usually subject to rigorous inspection procedures, ensuring operations adhere to certain standards. After a review of public records by NM Political Report it appears that an often controversial state program may not applying rigorous standards to its participants. Last week the New Mexico Environment Department determined that medical cannabis producer New MexiCann Natural Medicine violated a number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards after an explosion ripped through a facility in Santa Fe last July. Of the seven violations filed with OSHA, three related directly to the work environment that New MexiCann provided for the extraction process. Through a public records request, NM Political Report obtained producer inspection records for a 12 month period that show mostly blank inspection forms for New MexiCann along with other producers around the state.
An explosion ripped through a Santa Fe medical cannabis dispensary last summer, sending two workers to the hospital with severe burns. Months later after an investigation, the New Mexico Environment Department released surveillance video of the explosion. The incident took place while two workers at New MexiCann Natural Medicine were attempting to extract THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, using butane. The butane ignited, and video shows two workers frantically trying to flee the flame-filled room. We’ve embedded the video below, but be warned that it may be difficult to watch for some.
—NM Political Report reached out to Bill Richardson for his thoughts on Donald Trump (Richardson is a Hillary Clinton supporter after being on the outs with the Clintons for years). “Gov. Richardson thinks Trump would be disaster for the country and New Mexico if elected president,” a spokeswoman for Richardson said in an email. While Gov. Susana Martinez is staying mum on Donald Trump, the previous Republican governor expressed his thoughts—in a profane fashion—on the likely Republican nominee in a debate on Saturday. —Martinez signed legislation Wednesday that would reduce the amount of worker’s compensation someone can receive if they are drunk or otherwise intoxicated while injured. “If an employee is drunk or high on the job, they shouldn’t be rewarded with full workers compensation benefits when they injure themselves,” Martinez said in a statement.
The House passed a bill Tuesday that would bar insurance companies and employers from having to reimburse costs of workers’ medical marijuana through Worker’s Compensation. House Majority Floor Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, said in House Judiciary Committee he had a hard time voting for the bill, but did anyway. On the House floor, Gentry successfully offered an amendment that would make the bill conditional on federal law. He went on to say that he fully supports medical marijuana and what said were its benefits. “I think that medical cannabis does a great number of people a great deal of good,” Gentry said.
The House Judiciary voted along party lines on Wednesday to pass a bill that would stop the state requirement that employers reimburse costs for medical marijuana through worker’s compensation. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Randal Crowder, R-Clovis, told the committee he was concerned that insurance companies may leave the state out of fear of being charged with breaking federal law. “That’s my greatest fear,” Crowder said. Medical cannabis is legal under state law in 23 states, including New Mexico, and the District of Columbia. Gregory Vialpando, who was at the center of a court of appeals case regarding workers compensation and medical marijuana, spoke out in opposition to the bill.
As prefiled bills roll in to the Roundhouse, New Mexicans can expect to see some of the usual suspects. The legalization of recreational marijuana has become one of those perennial bills. This year, Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, has filed a legalization bill similar to one he filed last year. McCamley told NM Political Report the issue absolutely is a budget issue and and should be considered during the short session. “For this not be considered would be grossly inappropriate,” McCamley said in a phone interview on Monday.