Sun. Jun 20th, 2021

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Department of Health overstepped the intentions of a medical cannabis program by limiting who can receive access to marijuana in the state, a judge ruled.

The ruling by First District Judge Matthew Wilson came Monday after a complaint was filed by New Mexico Top Organics-Ultra Health, the state’s largest medical cannabis producer, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

The state law allows people with proof of authorization in medical cannabis programs in other states the ability to purchase medical marijuana in New Mexico. But Ultra Health argued that more than 5,000 people, most from out of state, were wrongly denied access.

“The department prevents enrollment if they present identification and authorization from different jurisdictions,” said Democratic state Sen. Jacob Candelaria, an attorney representing Ultra Health. “The department may think this is good policy, but it is a decision that is beyond the scope of their rule-making authority, and as a result, hundreds of patients a day are unable to access cannabis in New Mexico.”

Wilson said the department made a rule change in March and started prohibiting medical marijuana patients from other states from enrolling in New Mexico’s patient program and also denied New Mexico residents from enrolling as regular patients if they would qualify as reciprocal patients, or patients enrolled in another state.

Department of Health spokesman Jim Walton told The Santa Fe New Mexican that the department is considering its legal options.

Thomas Bird, an attorney with Keleher & McLeod representing the department, argued during last week’s hearing that the agency had the authority to enforce regulations.

Ultra Health CEO Duke Rodriguez praised the ruling this week, saying the courts held the state Department of Health accountable.

“The law is clear, and patients’ rights cannot simply be set aside by a regulator,” he said.

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