Most of the cannabis bills that were considered during this year's legislative session faced an almost completely disengaged media audience, overshadowed as they were by the almost nervous excitement surrounding the doomed recreational marijuana legalization bill. That's probably why most of them failed to lift off the ground.
The madness has finally come to an end. The New Mexico Department of Health is no longer required to issue medical cannabis cards to non-residents. Last week, the governor signed a measure that once again requires medical cannabis program applicants to be residents of New Mexico.
That means at least 613 out-of-state patients are probably pretty bummed this week. But I think I'm pretty confident in saying that we all expected this to come. The argument was made last year that because of a wording change made to a medical expansion bill that defined a patient as a “person” instead of a “resident of New Mexico,” the Medical Cannabis Program had to be opened up to nonresidents. A judge repeatedly ruled in favor of this interpretation, but the state wasn't having it—probably because it was turning our program into a quick-stop pot supplier for out-of-staters. The bill's authors repeatedly told reporters that it wasn't their intention to open the program to nonresidents, but that was neither here nor there.
And before anyone starts complaining about non-resident visitors in need of their medication, keep in mind that the new reciprocity rule kicks in July 1, allowing individuals enrolled in other states' medical cannabis programs to make purchases at New Mexico dispensaries. It will still be illegal to cross state lines with cannabis, though.
For those out-of-staters who already have a New Mexico medical cannabis card, state Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel told reporters that they would be allowed to keep their cards until they expire—about three years—but will not be able to renew them. So, yes. For the time being, you still have to continue being polite to those Texans you keep bumping into at the dispensary, no matter how painful that might be.
Another hot topic last year was a new rule that allows cannabis patients enrolled in public school to have medical marijuana administered while on campus. The rule gave schools some discretion when it came to implementation, but many complained that the language was too vague and open to interpretation.
The new rule gave schools the option of allowing students to receive their medication from a designated faculty member or their guardian. Many school leaders said that requiring staff to administer cannabis could endanger their jobs and chose the other option.
Parents were upset. For many, that choice meant they had to find a way to leave work and travel to the school multiple times a day just to give their children medication. Concerns were also raised over an exception that allowed schools to ignore the regulation if they could provide written proof that they would lose federal funding by following it.
Senate Bill 276 was set to change some of that. It would have barred schools from restricting the types of faculty who may administer the drug and prohibited the schools from discouraging or disciplining faculty who volunteered for the job. It would also only allow schools to opt out if they received notice from a federal agency that they would lose federal funding for the policy.
But it didn't pass, so the battle will continue to rage on this year.
A bill that would have potentially protected Native cannabis patients living on tribal land from federal prosecution stalled on the house floor.
Under Senate Bill 271, “Tribe and Pueblo Medical Marijuana Agreements,” the New Mexico Department of Health would have been authorized to enter into intergovernmental agreements with tribes and pueblos that would have allowed tribal groups to come up with their own medical cannabis programs.
This would have gone a long way in protecting patients from federal scrutiny. While a patient is able to purchase and possess medical cannabis on state land, the moment they enter federal trust lands, they are considered a criminal.
Apparently that will continue for at least another year.
A bill that would have allowed research facilities to grow or buy cannabis for research purposes was also put into the ground before the session was out.
House Bill 334 would have established a Cannabis Control Division to regulate licensing for research facilities. The facilities would be allowed to purchase and cultivate their own cannabis to be used in much needed studies. Currently, scientists can get authorization to grow cannabis for research, but they can only use plants provided by the Drug Enforcement Agency—plants that are well known to be subpar in quality and useless for these purposes.
So don't expect any of that research that our dear lawmakers keep crowing for, since they keep missing opportunities to make it happen.