July 10, 2015

Lawsuit seeks to open up secretive medical marijuana program

Medical marijuana prescription

A lawsuit by an open government and a local journalist seeks to open information on the state’s medical marijuana program that has proven to be highly secretive.

Medical marijuana prescription

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and independent journalist Peter St. Cyr announced a lawsuit  to reveal the names of the non-profit medical marijuana providers.

Currently, state Department of Health rules bar the release of the names of the medical marijuana providers. The ban is through regulation, and not statute. This is the bone of contention between St. Cyr and the open government group and the state Department of Health.

“Carving out exceptions to the public’s right to know is a job for the legislature. An executive department can’t exempt its own records from IPRA unless the text or the spirit of the governing statute demands that result,” a statement attributed to FOG lawyer Charles “Kip” Purcell and St. Cyr said. “In our view, DOH’s determination to shield the identities of medical marijuana producers has no such statutory basis.”

Susan Boe, the executive director of FOG, said that the lawsuit was not the first step in trying to open up the program.

“Beginning in 2009 and in several communications over the years, FOG has told the Department of Health that we believe the names are subject to disclosure under IPRA.” Boe said in a statement. “Our arguments did not persuade DOH to change its position so our only alternative was to file this lawsuit.”

St. Cyr was recently named an honoree by FOG for the group’s annual Dixon First Amendment Awards. The awards honor those who work for open government.

He won the award for journalists and will be joined by three other honorees in October.

A recent open records lawsuit found that the state Public Education Department, another cabinet-level agency, violated the Inspection of Public Records Act.