The New Mexico Department of Health and its Medical Cannabis Program have two weeks to convince a state district court judge that the department and program should not be sanctioned for violating a court order.
The order is the latest in a legal battle between medical cannabis producer Ultra Health and the state over who qualifies as a reciprocal medical cannabis patient.
This summer, the Department of Health finalized rules allowing patients who are authorized to use medical cannabis in another state or jurisdiction to also buy, use and possess cannabis in New Mexico. Shortly after the rule was made final, some New Mexicans reportedly started getting certified to use medical cannabis in other states that don’t have as stringent qualifications as New Mexico.
By September, the department and the Medical Cannabis Program issued a mandate that dispensaries only sign up would-be reciprocal patients whose identification cards match their authorization to use medical cannabis. The department and program also issued an emergency rule change, specifying that New Mexicans cannot be reciprocal patients in New Mexico.
Ultra Health, through its attorney Jacob Candelaria, who is also a state senator, days later filed a petition asking First Judicial District Court Judge Matthew Wilson to compel the state to “stop taking actions that are beyond and contrary to their statutory authority.”
By October, Wilson ordered the state to rescind its emergency rule change and mandate barring New Mexicans from registering as a medical cannabis patient in another state and becoming reciprocal patients in the New Mexico program.
The department and medical program immediately abided by the order and again allowed New Mexico residents to register as reciprocal patients.
But by the end of October, the Medical Cannabis Program published a notification of a proposed rule change similar to the emergency change. Then, earlier this month, the state notified the court of its plan to appeal Wilson’s decision. Two days later, Candelaria filed a motion asking Wilson to call the state back to court and explain why they should not be sanctioned for violating the judge’s order. Wilson’s original order in the case did not explicitly bar the department or program from changing the rules through the normal process which includes an official hearing and input from the public. But in his order filed Monday, Wilson said Candelaria’s argument was enough to warrant an explanation and subsequent hearing.
“The Court finds that Petitioner has set forth a prima facie, good faith basis that the Department has violated this Court’s Mandamus Order and that a hearing and response from the Department is warranted,” Wilson wrote.
The Department of Health has until December 7 to respond and a hearing is scheduled for three days later.