New Mexico lawmakers have voted to reinstate a residency requirement for patients authorized to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program. Under a bill passed in the New Mexico House of Representatives on Monday, allowing non-residents to apply for medical marijuana identification cards would be phased out later this year. The measure, SB 139, was approved in the state Senate on Saturday and has the support of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Democrat Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino. Under a different measure that was passed and signed into law last year, the words “resident of New Mexico” were removed from the definition of a qualified medical marijuana patient and replaced with the word “person.” Under that change, more than 600 people from Texas, Arizona, and other states have qualified as patients.
But Ortiz y Pino says that the change in definition was unintentional and that the state should again restrict issuing medical marijuana cards to New Mexico residents. Patients with cards from other states would also be able to purchase marijuana at licensed dispensaries under a reciprocity program. Ortiz y Pino is concerned that allowing residents of other states to qualify as medical marijuana patients could invite interference from the federal government.
Bipartisan Opposition to Bill
Democratic Sen. Jacob Candelaria, who voted against the bill, said the measure would make cannabis the only form of health care that is restricted to state residents. For example, many women travel to New Mexico for care from states with stricter abortion laws.
“We allow people from all over the country to come here,” Candelaria said, adding that he supports the state’s abortion law.
Sen. Jeff Steinborn, another Democrat, was also opposed to the bill. He said the measure is a humanitarian issue, citing the case of a friend with cancer who was not able to use medical marijuana because he lived in Texas.
“I personally am not convinced we have to take this step tonight,” Steinborn said.
Republican Sen. Cliff Pirtle also voted against the bill, saying he’d recently had trouble proving his residency when he tried to apply for a Real ID-compliant driver’s license.
“I think we might be going a little too far with this in proving residency,” Pirtle said.
He also scoffed at the notion that the federal government would interfere if nonresidents were permitted to enroll in the program, noting that states that have legalized recreational pot, including neighboring Colorado, have not been targeted.
“Keep in mind,” Pirtle said. “There’s 14 states that have recreational cannabis. They have done nothing to them.”
Duke Rodriguez, the CEO of medical marijuana provider Ultra Health, agreed that action from the federal government is unlikely.
“There is no threat of federal intervention,” he told a House committee on health policy. “There is no boogie man.”
If the bill is signed by Grisham, non-residents would not qualify as medical marijuana patients starting this summer. Non-resident patients who already have medical marijuana identification cards would be allowed to use them until they expire three years after being issued, according to New Mexico Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel.