February 7, 2020

Bill would protect cannabis patients who live on federal trust land

Matthew Reichbach

A New Mexico state senator is trying for a second time to pass a bill that would protect medical cannabis patients who live on tribal land. 

Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo, said his SB 271 would protect patients from federal law enforcement scrutiny. 

“We have native patients that are under this program and so when they’re off the reservation they’re legal, but as soon as they get on the reservation, federal trust land, it’s illegal because the federal government still has that as a federal violation,” Shendo said. 

Shendo said he hopes that an agreement between the state Department of Health and tribal leaders will at least lower the chances of federal charges for medical cannabis patients who live on tribal land. 

“We had a meeting with the feds and they felt that having some agreement with the state would be really helpful,” Shendo said. 

The state’s medical cannabis law allows for patients to purchase up to about eight ounces of dried flower or buds in a rolling three month period. And even though the tribal land is physically in New Mexico, the state government has little say in what happens on or to that land. 

Shendo said he isn’t sure how many medical cannabis patients live on tribal land, but that the change is still long overdue. 

“This is an issue that we probably should have taken care of when the [Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use] act was enacted, but it wasn’t so we’re just trying to make that correction,” Shendo said. 

The Senate Committee’s Committee, which determines whether bills fit into the governor’s legislative agenda during 30-day sessions, has not ruled the bill germane yet. But, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued an executive message earlier this week, authorizing the Senate to consider the bill. 

Shendo introduced a similar bill last year that only made it through one committee before the session ended.