Friday, April 13, 2018

Understanding Albuquerque’s Cannabis Decriminalization Law

To be clear, decriminalization of Cannabis (marijuana) is not the same as legalization of cannabis. Decriminalization means that the City of Albuquerque has amended its laws to make certain acts criminal, but no longer subject to prosecution. In the cannabis context, this means individuals caught with small amounts of cannabis for personal consumption won’t be prosecuted and won’t subsequently receive a criminal record or a jail sentence. In many states and cities, possession of small amounts of cannabis is treated like a minor traffic violation.

But even in states and cities that have decriminalized the herb, possessing larger quantities or selling cannabis have significant potential penalties. Therefore, you still need to be aware of the criminal laws in City, County and State. As always, Federal Law Trumps State Law. For State medical cannabis programs that is where the CJS Medical Cannabis Amendment to the Federal Budget comes into play, protecting those medical cannabis states. If you are arrested for cannabis use or distribution, you should consult a qualified criminal defense attorney before saying anything.

The City of Albuquerque decriminalization ordinance states that, “The legislation replaces the City’s current criminal penalty of fines and jail time for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana with a $25 civil fine. Marijuana possession remains a criminal offense under state and federal law.”

This new ordinance shall take effect five days after publication by title and general summary. Effective Date will be after the weekend on or about April 10th 2018.

Map of the City with City Council Districts: 

What does this mean for the medical cannabis patient in New Mexico?
The decriminalization law has almost zero effect for the medical cannabis patients in the state’s program. For those who use medically with no card, it provides a very minimal protection, and would be much more safer for those people to get into the medical cannabis program.

During the City Council meeting for the vote on the decriminalization, one public comment mentioned how there are many people using cannabis medically but they can not afford to pay $200 or more to get a medical cannabis card. There is not cost to get a card, it is free to apply for and there plenty of providers who take medical insurance for you medical cannabis card or they will do so after you ask your primary care provider...Here is a three Article Series about this:
[Article one: ‘How to Qualify for Medical Cannabis in New Mexico’]
[Article two: ‘Talking To Your Doctor About Medical Cannabis’]
[Article three: ‘Recommending Medical Cannabis In New Mexico: A Resource For Medical Professionals’]

What enrollment into the Medical Cannabis Program provides:
• Patients are not allowed to share or sell their medicine.
• Possession of no more than 230 units (approximately eight ounces) over a three month period.
• The right to purchase from a Licensed Non-Profit Producer
• The right to possess any paraphernalia in connection with their use of medical cannabis
• If the patient is not in possession of their card, they shall be given time to produce the card before arrest or criminal charges (Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act)
• The right to apply for a personal production license (PPL), to allow enrollee to grow for personal use. If approved, patient can have up to sixteen plants, four mature (flowering) and 12 seedlings.

As participants in the Medical Cannabis Program, if you are ever unsure of what is allowed for your medical cannabis use and consumption, call the Program Office at 505-827-2321 or talk to the Dispensary you frequent most. Don't let others tell you your rights; learn them and know them. 

With decriminalization and the political push for recreational use legalization of cannabis, there are others in the community and worse some being established non-profits who are telling medical cannabis program participants that it is ok to have “smoke circles” after public meetings that are also advertised as “kid friendly”. One group recently posted a meeting advertisement saying, “After the meeting all New Mexico Cannabis patients are free to join us by the fire pit. B.Y.O.C. If you are a current card holder then you know the rules! Yes, Vibrance is also zoned residential!”

None of that has anything to do with Medical Cannabis or is allowed per LECUA program law, please don’t let someone else put you at risk or your medical cannabis card at risk. People doing this obviously do not have any respect for our medical cannabis program or any respect for you as a program participant. Regardless of zoning, if a place is a business and the public can come in - it is a public place. Especially when a public meeting is being conducted.

When I recently attended a Autism Society event, afterwards the parents didn’t all take the kids and form a circle with them to dose their medicine and give it to them...Same is true when I’m doing volunteer work at a senior living community, after bingo my Grandma and her friends aren’t going out back to form circle to take their heart medicine.

It would be great to see the State allow patients to sample or use medicine at dispensaries but right now we are limited to only being able to use in a private residence. That can be your house, a friends private residence in Santa Fe - as long as it’s a private residence.

Participation in the medical cannabis program by a qualified patient or primary caregiver
does not relieve the qualified patient or primary caregiver from:
A. criminal prosecution or civil penalties for activities not authorized in this rule and
B. criminal prosecution or civil penalties for fraudulent representation to a law enforcement officer about the person’s participation in the program to avoid
arrest or prosecution;
C. liability for damages or criminal prosecution arising out of the operation of a vehicle while under the influence of cannabis or cannabis-derived products; or
D. criminal prosecution or civil penalty for possession, distribution, transfer, or use of cannabis or a cannabis-derived product:
(1) in a school bus or public vehicle;
(2) on school grounds or property;
(3) in the workplace of the qualified patient's or primary caregiver's employment;
(4) at a public park, recreation center, youth center, or other public place;
(5) to a person not approved by the department pursuant to this rule;
(6) outside New Mexico or attempts to obtain or transport cannabis, or cannabis-derived products from outside New Mexico; or 
(7)that exceeds the allotted amount of usable medical cannabis, or cannabis-derived
products. NMAC

The new Albuquerque Cannabis Decriminalization ordinance full text can be read here:|Text|&Search=

Medical Cannabis 4/20 Letter to Law Enforcement sent April 9th 2018 by the Department of Health full text can be read here:

Resource: ‘Medical Cannabis States, Decriminalization, Legalization, and Hemp’