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The State of Medical Marijuana in New Mexico
2020 Grade: B+
2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations
New Mexico lawmakers held a brief legislative session in 2020, in which they implemented a number of emergency measures in response to the COVID pandemic. Several of these measures pertained to legal medical cannabis access, including the decision to deem medical cannabis businesses as essential to maintain ongoing operations and patient access. New Mexico also permitted delivery to patients, curbside pickup and telemedicine appointments for patients re-enrolling in the state’s medical access program. 2020 also saw New Mexico inch closer to opening public consumption spaces, which is an important access feature to enable patients who rent or who are in subsidized housing to have a designated location to safely and legally consume cannabis without fear of eviction.
Beyond permanently maintaining the state’s cannabis-related COVID emergency measures, ASA recommends working to reduce product prices and increase the variety and availability of medical cannabis products designed specifically for patients.
In March 2007, the New Mexico legislature passed the “Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act” (SB 523). The law allowed patients and their caregivers to collectively possess up to six ounces of usable cannabis and, after obtaining a separate permit, cultivate up to four mature plants and 12 seedlings. The Department of Health oversees the rules and regulations for patient and caregiver IDs and Personal Production Licenses for patients or caregivers to grow medical cannabis for personal use. NMDOH issued rules on SB 523 in 2008 and revised rules in 2010 before issuing the state’s first medical dispensary license that year. A Medical Advisory Board within NMDOH approves new qualifying conditions for patients to gain program eligibility, and was the first to approve PTSD. The Board also later removed restrictions on chronic pain patients from qualifying for the program.
In 2018, regulators responded to concerns raised by patients and medical cannabis industry providers related to supply shortages, and increased the 450-plant grow limit for medical cannabis cultivators to 2,500. New Mexico also shortened the application process for patients in 2018, making it easier for patients to apply.
New Mexico made several medical cannabis program improvements in 2019 via SB 406, particularly with regard to expansion of patient rights. The legislation authorized medical cannabis use for student patients in school settings, and provided exemptions from criminal and civil liability for all patients, caregivers, and employees. SB 406 also established civil rights protections in the area of child custody and medical care to include organ transplant, created employment protections preventing employers from taking adverse actions against registered patients, and required NMDOH to create product safety and quality rules by the end of 2019. The new law also requires NMDOH to publish an annual report on the affordability and accessibility to medical cannabis, which will include discussion on access for those patients in rural areas and living in subsidized housing. SB 406 also authorized reciprocity for out-of-state patients, the creation of a three-year patient registration card for in-state patients, which will reduce financial and travel burdens on Land of Enchantment patients, and permitted NMDOH to organize rules providing for on-site consumption of cannabis at authorized facilities.
2019 also saw New Mexico add opioid use disorder, sleep apnea, Alzhiemer’s disease, autism spectrum disorder, and three degenerative neurological disorders as medical cannabis qualifying conditions. Governor Grisham also signed SB 323 into law in 2019, which decriminalized up to a half ounce of cannabis, which is now punishable with a $50 fine instead of imprisonment.
Surveyed patients report that prices are very high and there are concerns about a lack of product variety in dispensaries. Some surveyed patients report that access has gotten worse because of an increase in the number of patients, but no increase in plant production, causing product shortages in the state. Some surveyed patients mention turning to the illegal market to obtain medicine for this reason. Many surveyed patients would also like to see online ordering and curbside pickup maintained in the future.