A bill that would limit enrollment in the state’s medical cannabis program to New Mexico residents passed the House and is on its way to the governor’s desk.
SB 139, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque would change the definition in the states medical cannabis law to specify that a qualified medical cannabis patient must be a resident of New Mexico. The House passed the bill on a 44-19 vote.
As the bill has made its rounds in committee hearings, New Mexico’s Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel repeatedly stressed her fear that the federal government may try and interfere with the states Medical Cannabis Program if the bill is not signed into law.
Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, presented the bill for Ortiz y Pino and fielded questions from her colleagues.
Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Aztec, questioned how the Department of Health, which oversees the Medical Cannabis Program, defines what a resident is.
Armstrong, aided by Kunkel, said the department will accept various documents to prove a potential patient lives or plans to live in New Mexico.
Montoya ultimately voted against the bill.
Rep. Zack Cook, R-Ruidoso, who was the sole dissenting vote on the bill in a committee hours earlier, also voted against the bill. He dismissed Kunkel’s concerns about the U.S. Department of Justice.
“We don’t know that the feds are going to do anything,” Cook said, echoing his statements from earlier in the morning.
Regardless, the bill received bipartisan support. But, four Democrats voted against the bill despite Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s support.
The issue of who gets to enroll in the program goes back to last session when a bill that made sweeping changes to the state’s medical cannabis law also changed the definition of what a qualified patient from a “resident of New Mexico” to a “person.”
Arizona resident president and CEO of medical cannabis producer Ultra Health Duke Rodriguez, along with two Texas residents, successfully convinced a state judge that they should be eligible to enroll in the program. Lujan Grisham and the DOH took the issue to the state Court of Appeals where the issue is still pending.