District Court Judge David Thomson issued his 60-page ruling Thursday and is giving the Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Program 120 days (by March 1st 2019) to come up with a new rules on growing plant limits. He wrote that the department has been “impeding the purpose” of New Mexico’s medical cannabis program statute, thus the sole purpose of the law has not been followed by the Department.
“Section 2. PURPOSE OF ACT.--The purpose of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act is to allow the beneficial use of medical cannabis in a regulated system for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments.”
The Journal reports that, Bernalillo County resident Nicole Sena filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health in 2016 because she couldn’t find CBD oil, which requires several types of cannabis plants to produce, that she needed to treat her young daughter’s medical condition. She said she had to move to a “neighboring state” in order to get the oil.
Licensed Non Profit Producer (LNNP) Duke Rodriguez, CEO of Ultra Health, later became a plaintiff in the lawsuit. A bench trial concluded in August 2017.
Sena and Rodriguez were represented by Brian Egolf, a state representative and speaker of the House who also has a law firm in Santa Fe.
Department of Health spokesman Paul Rhien said in a text message Thursday to the ABQ Journal: “The Department has received the judge’s decision and we are considering our next steps. Our focus will always be on ensuring that patients have safe access to medicine.”
Thomson ruled that the state Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, which governs the medical cannabis program, gives the Department of Heath discretion to develop a distribution system, come up with requirements for producers and set procedures for obtaining a license. But the judge found that the statute doesn’t allow to department to “limit the production of medicinal cannabis that has no articulated fact-based correlation between the 450 plant limit and what meets the adequate supply needs of patients.”
“In essence, Department of Health is using its regulatory authority in a manner and with an end toward impeding the purpose of the Act,” Thomson wrote.
“Further, its regulatory mandate of 450 plants is not based on fact or reliable data and is not rationally related to its regulatory authority. More importantly, it impedes the ability to assure medical patients have an adequate supply.”
The Department of Health has changed the plant limit in past years, from 150 to 450 after a 2013 survey of medical cannabis patients, but Thomson ruled that the survey didn’t account for future growth of the program and noted that the department has not conducted another survey since. There were 9,760 patients in 2013, and as of September there are 58,782 patients in the program, according to the Medical Cannabis Program Patient Statistics Report for September 2019.
*Tuesday November 6 @ All Day
Vote To Protect Medical Cannabis Patient Rights!
*Friday December 7 @ 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Medical Cannabis Advisory Board Hearing
Harold Runnels Building
1190 S. St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, NM 87505