Updated medical cannabis law in New Mexico could grant inmates access to weed

Incarcerated medical cannabis patients in New Mexico have a legal right to procure pharmaceutical-grade pot


New Mexico is still feeling the effects of a bill that was recently signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The new law amends the State’s medical cannabis rule to expand patient access to pharmaceutical-grade weed.

Since the changes were signed into law, confusion has permeated New Mexico’s medical cannabis landscape, with concerns regarding how inmates can access medical cannabis whilst serving out their sentences.

On March 29, Senate Bill 406 was signed by the governor of New Mexico. Included in the bill are a number of protections against loss of child custody caused by becoming a medical cannabis patient, in addition to protections that prevent employees from having their job contract unfairly terminated if their employee discovers that the individual tested positive for weed.

https://www.marijuana.com/news/2018/04/new-mexico-medical-marijuana-program-tops-50k-patients/New Mexico’s cannabis law clearly states that individuals who are on parole or probation can legally use medical cannabis. Should the state’s Corrections Department approve the bill to provide inmates with access to medical cannabis, the State of New Mexico will become the first to accomplish the achievement by means of a statutory hearing.

Duke Rodriguez is the CEO of Ultra Health; the state’s largest producer and seller of medical cannabis. Ultra Health operates dispensaries in 23 locations.

“A qualified patient’s use of cannabis pursuant to the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act shall be considered the equivalent of the use of any other medication,” says Rodriguez. This means that incarcerated medical cannabis patients have a legal right to procure pharmaceutical-grade pot.

“Inmates, by law, must be provided reasonable health care by the state. If medical cannabis is a sanctioned activity by the state, then it seems logical by public policy that these inmates would have reasonable access,” Rodriguez said, adding that, “I’m not sure why there would be any confusion.”

(Pictured) Duke Rodriguez. He says that eventually, state officials will have to address the issue.

“I think it is likely that a qualified patient, who is incarcerated, could make a more than reasonable argument that they have the legal right to cannabis while incarcerated,” Rodriguez said. He says that eventually, state officials will have to address the issue.

New Mexico’s policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, Jessica Gelay, said that her group wants inmates to have access to medicinal-grade cannabis, as well as any other medications that the inmate might necessitate. While she is a strong supporter of granting inmates access to medical weed, she says that she would leave state officials in charge of dealing with the law.

“The Drug Policy Alliance firmly believes that people should not lose their rights when they are incarcerated and should not be prevented from using medicine that they need,” Gelay said. “Medical cannabis patients face discrimination in all walks of life, which is why protections are needed in policy in order to dismantle stigma and permit access.”

Allowing inmates access to medical cannabis in New Mexico is no easy feat, due to the fact cannabis is still a federally illegal substance in the U.S. At the current time, inmates are being prescribed opioids like buprenorphine or methadone, to treat opioid addiction.

Reports and media attention on the subject are emerging everywhere; something that will hopefully prompt New Mexico lawmakers to permit medical cannabis inside state-run correctional facilities.

“This is not about inmates ‘smoking weed’ in the prison yard but about individuals having medical grade cannabis in clinically equivalent dosages,” Rodriguez said, adding that he doesn’t think that the law is controversial at all.