A bill that would change background checks for medical cannabis providers and caretakers was approved by a House committee and will now head to the House floor.
The House Business and Employment Committee voted in favor of HB 527, sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque by a 9 to 4 vote.
Pacheco’s bill would allow the Department of Health to use a federal database to perform background checks on those who provide or deliver medical cannabis. The background checks would also apply to caretakers of medical cannabis patients.
Pacheco said his intention is to protect the medical cannabis program from further scrutiny.
“Without this the program could be destroyed,” Pacheco said. “We don’t want that.”
Currently, the Department of Health already performs background checks on medical cannabis providers, but DOH officials have said that the background checks are done online through a third party and can be time consuming.
Two Democratic members told the sponsor that they were concerned the bill aims to fix something that is not broken.
Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española, asked Pacheco if there were specific instances of providers who were convicted of a felony. She pointed to the fact that there are already background checks in place.
“Already there’s a rule in place, I’m not sure why we need this,” Rodella said
Rep. Miguel Garcia, R-Albuquerque, also raised concerns and suggested that the bill aims to address a nonexistent problem. He told Pacheco that he would not vote for the bill.
“I wish I could see this legislation in its totality, but there are too many obstructions for me to get there,” Garcia told the sponsor
Pacheco maintained that his bill was good legislation and that the legislature should not wait for a problem before they provide a solution.
“I don’t think we have to wait for something bad to happen to correct a deficiency,” Pacheco said.
Earlier in the session, HB 527 was passed by the House Judiciary on a party line vote. Next it will head to the House Floor, where it has a good chance of passing and being sent to the Senate.