A bill sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque), SB 139 or the “Medical Marijuana ‘Qualified Patient’” bill, intends to clarify that persons who are eligible for enrollment in the state medical cannabis program must be residents of New Mexico. As noted in coverage by New Mexico Political Report, The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted in favor of passing SB 139. The sole dissenting vote was cast by Sen. Jeff Steinborn, (D-Las Cruces), who played a sort of legislative devil’s advocate, positing the notion that the state of New Mexico could offer Texans—and presumably residents of all other US states without a medical cannabis program of their own—the opportunity to take advantage of cannabis’ medical benefits. In practical terms, SB 139 would amend the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act by shoring up the definition of key terms related to the state medical cannabis program, namely by defining a “qualified patient” as “a resident of New Mexico who has been diagnosed by a practitioner as having a debilitating medical condition and has received written certification and a registry identification card pursuant to the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act.” The bill also defines a “reciprocal participant” as “an individual who holds proof of authorization to participate in the medical cannabis program of another state of the United States, the District of Columbia, a territory or commonwealth of the United States or a New Mexico Indian nation, tribe or pueblo.” SB 139 now awaits approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Stateside, the pace of reforming cannabis law—from decriminalizing possession to providing medical access via state programs all the way up to legalizing recreational adult use—may still frustrate American cannabis advocates but in a lot of places outside the US, things are still worse. International newcomers to the cause of cannabis law reform include Canada and Uruguay, with legal recreational access and the longtime cannabis cultures of Amsterdam and Jamaica. As reported by VICE correspondent Manisha Krishnan in “The Worst Places in the World to Get Busted with Weed,” “There are [still] many countries that consider weed evil, as dangerous as meth and heroin, while consumers are vilified and written off as addicts. Depending on how much a person is caught with, serious jail time or even the death penalty is a possible punishment.” For instance, in Indonesia, cannabis is classed as a Group 1 drug, alongside cocaine, crystal meth and heroin, and punishment ranges from a maximum of four years in prison for personal use to anywhere from five years to a life sentence for possession of distribution quantities. While Malaysia is looking into reforming cannabis law, drug traffickers’—those caught with over 200 grams (a little more than 7 ounces) of cannabis—possession of cannabis is currently punishable by at least five years in jail and cultivation of a single cannabis plant could mean life in prison. To learn more about cannabis possession penalties in destinations ranging from Japan, Thailand and Singapore to the UK and United Arab Emirates, read Krishnan’s article here.