NMDOH wants to restrict medical cannabis reciprocity rules, patient purchase limits increased

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Rules on medical cannabis reciprocity in New Mexico are being challenged by the Department of Health (DOH) . Two unique approaches will be tested out at a forthcoming hearing by the DOH that could potentially amend reciprocity rules.

A website notice announced the proposed rule changes for New Mexico’s medical cannabis program, which had 100,021 enrolled patients as of October 31, 2020. If the hearing goes in the DOH’s favor, only out-of-state residents would be authorized to become reciprocal medical cannabis patients. 

The prospective rules mean that New Mexicans cannot be reciprocal patients in New Mexico. According to the department’s lawyer, the DOH maintains the authority to enact rules that go above and beyond state laws.

Medical cannabis reciprocity in New Mexico was contended by DOH in October

The Department initially tried to tackle reciprocity issues back in October, when an emergency rule change was proposed to place additional requirements on out-of-state medical cannabis cardholders. However, Ultra Health – a turnkey dispensary operator and primary care provider of medical cannabis in New Mexico – initiated legal action that essentially defeated the rule change. 

Boasting 23 dispensaries around the state, Ultra Health argued that the ruling went beyond the department’s authority. The company was represented by attorney and New Mexico state senator Jacob Candelaria. He requested that First Judicial District Court Judge Matthew Wilson urge the state to “stop taking actions that are beyond and contrary to their statutory authority.”

A state district court judge ruled in favor of the nation’s largest vertically-integrated medical cannabis network. Consequently, this meant that the DOH was forced to re-authorize hundreds of reciprocal patients; regardless of whether their medical cannabis authorization and patient identification card was issued in the same jurisdiction. However, in early November, the DOH submitted a notice of its objective to appeal the court’s decision.

New Mexico panel votes to boost medical cannabis purchase limits

Following a recent hearing that saw supporters of medical cannabis in New Mexico slam the state for its accessibility restraints, the state medical cannabis advisory board has voted in favor of boosting patient purchase limits. The vote means that enrolled patients can get their hands on 15 ounces over a 90-day period — almost double the previously allowed amount.

Thanks to the panel’s ruling, New Mexico’s medical cannabis program can better compete with states like Arizona and Nevada. However, the state health secretary must make a final decision before the recommendation goes into effect for the program, which has experienced a significant boom in interest since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic flared up across the U.S.

Moreover, as legislators consider legalizing recreational cannabis in New Mexico at the forthcoming 2021 Legislative session, it is becoming increasingly clear that cultivation must also be ramped up to meet patient demand and satisfy a potential adult-use consumer demographic.