NM judge rules patient cannabis purchase limits consistent with state law

A New Mexico state judge ruled on Thursday that medical cannabis patients cannot purchase the same amount as non-patients when recreational-use sales begin. 

Second Judicial District Court Judge Benjamin Chavez, in his written ruling, dismissed a claim from a medical cannabis patient that medical cannabis patients should be afforded the same purchase limits as what is laid out in the state’s Cannabis Regulation Act, which went into effect in June. 

“Petitioner has failed to establish that he, as well as qualified patients, qualified caregivers, and reciprocal patients, have a clear legal right to purchase an additional two-ounces of medical cannabis, tax free, at this time, under the Cannabis Regulation Act,” Chavez wrote. 

Prior to the Cannabis Regulation Act, the only way to legally possess cannabis in New Mexico was to be a medical cannabis patient. 

The state’s Medical Cannabis Program has long allowed patients to purchase up to 230 units in a rolling 90-day period. A “unit,” a term created by the program, is one gram of cannabis flower or a quarter of a gram of concentrate or extract. That means a medical cannabis patient could buy up to eight ounces of cannabis flower every three months. 

The Cannabis Regulation Act, however, allows adults who are at least 21 years old to purchase up to two ounces of cannabis flower in each purchase, with no limit on the number of purchases. The new law also limits personal possession to two ounces, but there is no limit on the amount of cannabis stored at a person’s home. Essentially, once recreational-use sales begin next year, a person could hypothetically make five trips to a cannabis retail business, purchasing the maximum amount each time and have purchased two more ounces than a patient is allowed in a 90-day period. 

Chavez, in his decision, cited a portion of the Cannabis Regulation Act which states that a person 21 years of age or older can buy “not more cannabis than authorized by the Cannabis Regulation Act or the Medical Cannabis Program.” Chavez also cited a portion of the law that states medical cannabis patient rules and regulations will remain under the purview of the Medical Cannabis Program until the newly formed Cannabis Control Division creates its own rules and regulations for medical cannabis patients. 

Last month, the Medical Cannabis Program held a public hearing and presented proposed rule changes that would increase medical cannabis purchase limits to 425 units or 15 ounces of cannabis flower.

NM medical cannabis patients should not expect increased purchase limits any time soon

The head of the department tasked with regulating recreational-use cannabis in New Mexico said medical cannabis patients should not expect purchase limits to be expanded, despite a letter from a group of New Mexico medical cannabis producers suggesting otherwise.  

Last week, during an interview for the collaborative podcast Growing Forward, New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department Superintendent Linda Trujillo said until commercial cannabis sales begin next April, medical cannabis patients will still be limited to 230 units in a rolling 90-day period. The Medical Cannabis Program, overseen by the state’s Department of Health, defines a unit as one gram of smokable cannabis, or 0.2 grams of THC in extracts, derivatives or edible cannabis products. Representatives of both DOH and RLD confirmed that both agencies agree that medical cannabis purchase limits will continue to be determined by DOH. The Cannabis Regulation Act also seems to confirm that even after commercial cannabis sales start next year, medical cannabis purchase limits will be determined by the DOH. 

Earlier this month a group of five medical cannabis producers sent a letter to RLD and DOH, essentially arguing for an increase in production limits. The Cannabis Regulation Act, which goes into effect on June 29, will limit recreational-use cannabis purchases to two ounces at a time, but will not limit the number of purchases that can be made.