The New Mexico Senate has approved legislation that would prohibit non-residents from enrolling in the state’s medical cannabis program, after a judge ruled last year that regulators must allow out-of-state patients access to the program.
Supporters of the bill, S.B. 139, aim to reverse a change in a state law that was enacted last year and that allowed qualified non-residents to obtain medical cannabis ID cards in the state, according to an Albuquerque Journal report.
The bill’s sponsors believe allowing out-of-state patients into New Mexico’s medical cannabis program could cause the federal government to shut down the program if another state files a lawsuit, the news outlet reported.
“What this bill does is make sure we’re not enabling people to violate the laws of their state,” Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto told the Albuquerque Journal.
Last fall, a judge upheld a law that eliminated the residency requirement in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program and ruled that the New Mexico Department of Health had to begin issuing medical cannabis cards to qualifying non-residents.
When the new law took effect, the Department of Health said the elimination of the residency requirement was a drafting error and refused to allow out-of-state patients to enroll in the program. That is when three out-of-state petitioners who applied for medical cannabis cards and were denied filed a lawsuit against the state.
After the judge ruled that the state must allow non-residents to obtain medical cannabis cards, the program saw a dramatic increase in out-of-state enrollees. As of January, 613 non-residents had enrolled in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
The Department of Health is currently appealing the ruling to the Court of Appeals, the news outlet reported.
Meanwhile, the Senate approved S.B. 139 in a 32-8 vote, sending it to the House for consideration. The plaintiff’s lead attorney in the court challenge is House Speaker Brian Egolf, the Albuquerque Journal reported, and Egolf has announced that he will excuse himself from considering the bill.
If the legislation ultimately passes the legislature this year, the out-of-state enrollees in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program will be able to continue accessing the program until their current, one-year ID cards expire, according to the Albuquerque Journal.