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Judge Allows Out-of-State Residents into Medical Cannabis Program

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A state district judge from Santa Fe, New Mexico ruled last week that out-of-state residents should be allowed to participate in the state’s medical cannabis program, according to the Albuquerque Journal. The decision was controversial, as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Department of Health both expressed concerns in opposition to the matter.

Judge Bryan Biedscheid announced his ruling on Aug. 29 after a two-hour hearing, citing the language of the amended medical cannabis legislation. He explained that the Department of Health does not have the authority to disallow qualifying patients from out-of-state from obtaining medical cannabis cards.

“This statute, plainly and unambiguously, does away with the requirement of residence of the state of New Mexico,” Biedscheid stated. “Continuing to insist on a showing of residence for eligibility in the program, when that has been taken out by the Legislature, is not appropriate.”

Other lawmakers were very disappointed with the ruling and will ultimately challenge Judge Bedschied’s ruling.

Gov. Lujan Grisham in particular issued a statement demonstrating the state’s opposition. “We remain of the opinion that New Mexico’s medical cannabis program should not be bulldozed by an out-of-state litigant operating with his own financial interests at heart rather than those of the state’s medical program or of the many New Mexicans who depend upon it,” she said.

“[Thursday’s] decision contradicts both the intent of the legislative sponsor and the interpretation of the New Mexico Department of Health, and the state plans to appeal the decision.”

Earlier this month, the governor’s office argued that when it removed the requirement for qualified patients to be a resident of New Mexico, it was done so to allow reciprocity to out-of-state residents who had medical cannabis cards from their own states. The change was not intended to allow out-of-state residents the ability to get a New Mexico medical cannabis card. 

The ruling came after three out-of-state residents filed an emergency petition after the New Mexico Department of Health denied their applications for the state’s medical cannabis program. Two of the plaintiffs were from Texas, and the other, Duke Rodriguez, was from Arizona. Rodriguez is the CEO of a legal medical cannabis company, Ultra Health LLC. “We’re totally excited. It’s a tremendous victory for all medical cannabis patients,” Rodriguez said.

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