New Mexico Department of Health’s medical cannabis regulations overturned by judge

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A New Mexico district judge has ruled that directives written by the state Department of Health regarding medical cannabis program oversight were not evidence-backed and therefore must be rewritten. 

According to a report by The Santa Fe New Mexican, an order to repeal regulations including testing requirements was issued by District Judge Bryan Biedscheid on Friday, January 29. 

Biedscheid is requesting that the state’s medical cannabis regulations be rewritten due to the fact they “were not supported by substantial evidence.” The order claims that the NMDOH should have consulted with the state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board prior to issuing the rules.

A July complaint spurred on the court order to rescind New Mexico’s cannabis regulations 

The order to repeal New Mexico’s medical cannabis regulations was in response to a complaint filed by the state’s largest medical cannabis producer, New Mexico Top Organics Ultra Health. Based on the company’s argument, the NMDOH provided “no rational connection” between its rule-making process and the facts. 

NMDOH has been sued by Ultra Health’s Chief Executive Officer Duke Rodriguez on numerous occasions. Previous lawsuits centered around subjects like gross receipts tax applicability, adequate supply definitions and sanctions. Although the Department has declined to comment on pending litigation, Biedscheid says that he hopes his order will offer adequate guidance for the issue to stay out of the court in future.

Aside from the multitude of lawsuits filed against the Department of Health, New Mexico’s medical cannabis market is doing surprisingly well. Analysts responsible for compiling the Marijuana Business Factbook predict that sales revenue will top around $200 million this year. Since state-reported medical cannabis sales indicate that revenue totaled $130 million in 2019, it seems entirely feasible that these predictions will transpire.

New Mexico’s medical cannabis dispensaries may be allowed to start adult-use sales in October

As Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico pours her energy into cannabis legalization, the state’s existing medical cannabis dispensary owners have been alerted to the fact that they could soon be serving the adult-use consumer demographic.

Two separate proposals are believed to have been reviewed by a House committee at a hearing that took place last weekend. One of those bills, which was contemplated by the Health and Human Services Committee on Saturday, February 6, featured social equity provisions that have long-been pushed for by cannabis proponents. 

The bill was initiated by Rep. Javier Martínez (D), who wants to allow adults aged 21 and above to legally possess “at least” two ounces of cannabis. In addition to this, his bill would enable state residents to cultivate a maximum of six mature and six immature plants for personal consumption. Moreover, the bill would establish a sales system that is both regulated and taxed accordingly.

Something that stands out about Martinez’s bill is the fact that it contains provisions that would automatically expunge previous cannabis convictions. No other recently-introduced legalization bill, of which there are four, includes such provisions. Additionally, the lawmaker’s proposal would use tax revenue from cannabis sales to financially support communities that have been hardest hit by the failed “War on Drugs”.

While the proposal requires that the rules be enacted no later than January of next year, existing medical cannabis operators in New Mexico could have the opportunity to launch recreational sales this October.