The Land of Enchantment now stands at the precipice of enacting recreational cannabis legalization but, as Andy Lyman reports, current medical cannabis patients here already face limited employment opportunities with the State of New Mexico. In “State job opportunities limited for medical cannabis patients” for New Mexico Political Report, Lyman explores the impact that enrollment in the state medical cannabis program and subsequent medical use of cannabis flower, extracts and edibles has on patients’ eligibility for employment in state government. In contrast to jobs in private industry—subject to the capricious whims of a global economy—landing a position with a state governmental entity provides a comparably safe, assured path to continued employment that ultimately segues into a relatively sustainable retirement package.
As Lyman reports, “The parts of the [state] law that are supposed to protect patients from losing their jobs solely for being a patient in the program may also be hindering the nearly 79,000 cannabis patients in New Mexico from getting a job with the state. That’s because the law also protects employers by giving them enough autonomy to fire or not hire a cannabis patient for safety concerns or if the employer could lose federal funding for hiring a cannabis user.” A map to the path forward for New Mexico medical cannabis policy and related employment protections for patients now depends largely on the success or failure of Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham’s hopeful recreational cannabis legislation.
The New Mexico Department of Health is presently attempting to suss out the answer to a question long whispered by medical cannabis patients: “Now that I have access to my medicine, where do I smoke/vape/ingest it?” The safe bet has always seemed to be private residences. But, unless you own your residence outright, labyrinthine lease legalese factors in. Of the other places where New Mexican medical cannabis patients spend their time—work, school, health care providers, libraries and so on—the answer remains unclear. Writing for the Santa Fe Reporter, Cade Guerrero reports on the New Mexico Department of Health’s proposal of a new rule that would designate specific allowed areas for “smoking, vaporizing, and ingestion of medical cannabis products by qualified patients.”
The first public meeting held by the DOH on the proposal happened Nov. 22. As Guerrero notes, “New Mexico's Senate Bill 406, approved in the 2019 session, ordered the creation of rules to govern these new spaces. For example, cannabis patients need to prove they've got a designated driver before they can consume on-site.” The state of New Mexico joins Alaska, Colorado and Massachusetts in this effort to define safe space for medical cannabis consumption by legalizing “consumption lounges” where patients can legally smoke, vape and eat cannabis. The DOH Medical Cannabis Advisory Board has another public meeting slated for Tuesday, Dec. 10 in Room A-1006 of the Harold Runnels Building (1190 S. St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe) from 1:30pm to 4:30pm.