Friday, April 5, 2019

Governor Lujan Grisham Signs Medical Cannabis Program Changes bill into Law

On Thursday, April 4th 2019, Governor Lujan Grisham signed into law SB-406, Medical Cannabis Changes. This is the first major change to the state’s medical cannabis program since the passage of the original law in 2007. There were many changes to Senate Bill 406 as it went through the legislative process at the Roundhouse, as the bill was gutted there are still several benefits for the patient community.

June 14 2019 is effective date of legislation not a general appropriation bill or a bill carrying an emergency clause or other specified date, which is the case with Senate Bill 406. The new Medical Cannabis Changes law also provides the Department of Health two different dates for creating rules and having public hearing for those new proposed rules for the newly proposed measures in the new law. The medical cannabis community will have a chance to provide public comment for that rule making process. 

Here is a rundown on what is in Senate Bill 406 Medical Cannabis Changes:Senate Bill 406, Medical Cannabis Changes, Introduced by Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino.

The Senate Judiciary Committee amendment to the Senate Public Affairs Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 406 adds a section to the bill and would add a section to the Public School Code (Section 22 NMSA 1978) allowing for the use of medical cannabis in schools. This is only in SB-406 because Senator Gould allowed them to add her bill, SB-204 Medical Cannabis in School, to SB-406.

During the Floor Debate there were two key changes to the bill:
The first Senator Floor Amendment adds to the definition of “cannabis manufacturer.” It would now apply to those persons or entities that might “purchase, obtain, sell and transport cannabis products to other cannabis establishments (emphasis added to new terms).

Employment Protections were weakened with the second Senator Floor Amendment revises the application of the “Medical Cannabis Act” to employers vis-à-vis medical cannabis users. Employers would now remain able to take action against medical cannabis users based on an “employee's positive drug test for cannabis components or metabolites.”

Employers would also be able to take adverse employment action against medical cannabis users who used medical cannabis on the job site or were impaired by use of medical cannabis, or if the employee were deemed by the employer to be in a “safety-sensitive position.” The definition of "adverse employment action" is removed.

One of the biggest changes to the current medical cannabis program law is how all of the qualifying health conditions that were added to the program by rule are now all part of the written law and can no longer be removed or changed by rule. 

The Department of Health has to promulgate new rules by December 20, 2019 for:
  • Patients and Caregivers will now have to get a license to make medicine at home for: “manufacturing cannabis products using an oil extractor solvent that is stored under pressure unless the qualified patient or primary caregiver holds a separate license from the department permitting the person to manufacture cannabis products using an oil extractor solvent that is under pressure.”
  • Identify requirements for the licensure of cannabis producers and cannabis production facilities, cannabis couriers, cannabis manufacturers, cannabis testing facilities and any other cannabis establishments that the department may license and set forth procedures to obtain licenses
  • Identify requirements for testing and labeling of cannabis and cannabis products for quality assurance
  • Determine additional duties and responsibilities of the advisory board and it’s newly expanded membership. The members shall be chosen for appointment by the secretary from a list proposed by the New Mexico medical society, the New Mexico nurses association, the New Mexico academy of family physicians, the New Mexico academy of physician assistants, the New Mexico pharmacists association or the New Mexico Hispanic medical association.
  • The department shall allow for the smoking, vaporizing and ingesting of cannabis products within a cannabis consumption area. 
  • Makes the period of use of a cannabis registry authorization three years but patients must submit a provider’s statement every 12 month, stating that the patient has been examined, continues to have a qualifying condition, and that the provider believes the benefits outweigh the risks.
  • Patients and parents of patients are also protected under the new law from the Children Youth and Families Department taking custody of their children solely because of medical cannabis. Likewise, the law prevents denied custody rights for just being a medical cannabis patient. 
  • Removal of the potency cap on all concentrates, “the department shall not limit the amount of THC concentration in a cannabis product; provided that the department may by rule adopt requirements for apportionment and packaging of cannabis products.”
  • Certification of patients can now be performed in person or via telehealth/telemedicine. 
  • Receipt of medical cannabis would not be a disqualifying condition for a transplanted organ 
By March 2020, the new law provides that Department issue rules allowing anyone with authorization in another state for medical cannabis can have the same privileges in New Mexico, and asks the DOH to specify rules for joining the other 20 states that have reciprocity in use of medical cannabis.

Definition changes and additions to the Lynn & Erin Compassionate Use Act, 2007:
  • “Cannabis” defined as all parts of plants containing more than 0.3% THC but not the stalks, components of a product other than those made of the cannabis plant, or any hemp product
  • Cannabis consumption area, cannabis courier, cannabis manufacturer, cannabis establishment, cannabis producer, cannabis testing facility newly defined
  • “Personal production license” as a license allowing a qualified patient or his/her primary caregiver to produce cannabis for the patient’s use
  • “Qualified patient”: certified by a practitioner as having a qualifying, debilitating condition and a registration card for the program. The practitioner must have initially examined the patient in person, but can later use telemedicine to evaluate the patient.
  • “Reciprocal participant” is someone registered in another state’s medical marijuana program
  • “Registry identification card” as granting access for a patient and his/her primary caregiver to possess, grow, purchase, and administer cannabis 
  • “Safety-sensitive position” being a type of employment in which persons using intoxicating substances might prove a threat to that person or other people.
  • “Telemedicine” as commonly defined elsewhere, and
  • “Written certification,” as a statement on a DOH-approved form indicating the medical condition for which cannabis is prescribed and the practitioner’s belief that the benefits of its use outweighed the dangers.

Link to the Final Version Signed into Law:

This is probably the most beneficial aspect of the the new law for the medical cannabis community that will be very beneficial in petitioning the advisory board for new changes by rule:
“For the purposes of medical care, including an organ transplant, a qualified patient's use of cannabis pursuant to the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act shall be considered the equivalent of the use of any other medication under the direction of a physician and shall not be considered to constitute the use of an illicit substance or otherwise disqualify a qualified patient from medical care."
The last sentence of the act summarizes many provisions of the act: “A qualified patient’s use of cannabis pursuant to the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act shall be considered the equivalent of the use of any other medication under the supervision of a physician”

Today the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program has almost 70,000 registered participants with over 90 dispensaries operated by 35 licensed non-profit producers (LNPP’s). The Medical Cannabis Program (MCP) was created in 2007, as the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, under chapter 210 Senate Bill 523. New Mexico’s medical cannabis history started in 1978, after public hearings the legislature enacted H.B. 329, the nation’s first law recognizing the medical value of cannabis…the first law.
“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.”

Medical Cannabis Program Website:
To apply for the Medical Cannabis Program, click on the application you need below.
Medical Cannabis Patient Application
Medical Cannabis Caregiver Application
Medical Cannabis Personal Production Application

Related Articles on getting your New Mexico Medical Cannabis Card:[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’]