A district judge in New Mexico has ruled that the state’s medical marijuana companies can begin supplying Texans and other out-of-state patients.
The New Mexico Department of Health previously insisted that only residents of the state could enrol in its medical marijuana program. This sparked outrage among producers that had already begun advertising their wares to people living in neighbouring Texas, which has not legalized medicinal cannabis.
Now District Judge Bryan Biedscheid has ruled that the Department of Health must begin issuing medical marijuana cards to all qualifying patients, regardless of where they live.
“The plain language of the current definition of qualified patient indicates that the qualified patient need not be a New Mexico resident,” he wrote in his verdict.
Post-traumatic stress disorder and severe chronic pain are among the qualifying conditions in New Mexico, while opioid use disorder, Alzheimer’s disease and autism spectrum disorder were recently added to the list.
The Department of Health now has until Aug. 19 to file a response. If it cannot offer a compelling reason for Biedscheid to overturn his ruling, the state must open its doors to outsiders demanding marijuana.
Duke Rodriguez, president of leading New Mexico producer Ultra Health LLC, is among the plaintiffs. His firm has already invested in radio advertising in west Texas, which borders New Mexico, in a bid to attract new customers over the state line.
In June, Democratic Rep. Brian Egolf, the Speaker of the House in New Mexico and an attorney for Ultra Health, wrote a 12-page letter to the medical cannabis program manager at the New Mexico Department of Health, Kenny Vigil, to address the eligibility of non-residents to gain medical marijuana cards.
Egolf has recently won two cases against the Department of Health by arguing it overstepped its authority in defiance of state law. He said the state court would be likely to rule against it again in this matter, and urged it to settle the matter without getting the courts involved.
Yet Vigil clearly did not budge, and the matter has indeed gone to court, resulting in Biedscheid’s ruling on Monday.
Recent figures show that there are now 74,100 active patients in New Mexico, an increase of 35% over the past 12 months.
A study conducted by former state tax policy director Kelly O’Donnnell on behalf of Ultra Health, found that around 2 million Texans live within a two-hour drive of New Mexico. If just 1% join the state’s program, it will increase the patient count by 20,000.