“Medical Marijuana Changes”
State Senator Cisco McSorley has been very busy this session with his sponsored legislation on medical cannabis and hemp at the roundhouse, Senate Bill 6: “Industrial Research Rules” and Senate Bill 177, “Medical Marijuana Changes”. Cisco McSorley has been a member of the New Mexico State Senate, representing district 16, of Bernalillo county. McSorley was first elected to the chamber in 1996. Senator McSorley served in the New Mexico State House of Representatives from 1985 to 1997. Senator McSorley earned his B.A. from the University of New Mexico in 1974 and his J.D. from the University of New Mexico, School of Law, in 1979. His professional experience includes working as a Teacher in Quito, Ecuador, from 1974 to 1976, and as a lawyer since 1979. The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, 2007, the current medical cannabis law passed under Governor Bill Richardson and was lead in the state legislature by Senator Cisco McSorley.
Senate Bill 177, “Medical Marijuana Changes”, passed on February 13th 2017, in the Senate Chamber and it was introduced in the House Chamber and since has been referred to the House Health and Human Service Committee. Senate Bill 177 takes 14 current conditions from the current program rules and adds them into the definition of “debilitating medical condition”, part of the program law for a person to obtain a medical cannabis registry identification card.
The bill wanted to add ‘status as a veteran’ as an automatic qualification for obtaining a registration identification card. Veteran status was removed as a "qualifying condition" on a senate floor amendment by request of a former Rear Admiral Payne, a attorney and a New Mexico State Senator who thought is was giving Veterans access to “recreational pot”. It’s concerning to see one veteran and lawmaker make a decision on something the lawmaker doesn’t understand, that affects thousands of Veterans in New Mexico.
Patients are allowed to have 5 oz of medical cannabis every two weeks under SB-177, and it was said in a Senate Committee by Drug Policy Alliance, that the increase to 5 oz every two weeks helps patients in rural areas because those patients would not have to drive to Albuquerque as much. This increase was also discussed during the Senate floor debate, despite this the bill doesn’t clarify about the two weeks.
Another solution would be for lawmakers to add in this bill and direct in the legislation for licensure of dispensaries in the underserved rural areas in the State. Several area’s of the northern and southern part of the state are needing a dispensaries to serve patients. The state could direct in law and then could open a medical cannabis licensure expansion round for rural areas only, to meet these needs.
This legislation has really great potential to help patients, the Medical Marijuana Changes bill would increase Personal Production License benefits by allowing a patient to keep all that one can harvest. Removing 230 unit/gram Limit on PPL Harvest. Get your Personal Production License, as the benefits are worth it. Removal of the current THC Concentrate Cap that has been limited to 70% THC, the addition of “Substance Abuse/Addiction” as a Qualifying Condition, allows patients to be organ donor, and furthers Patient’s Protections with youth services. The bill would not allow children to be removed and placed into state custody based solely on an individual’s participation in the state’s medical cannabis program.
One of the bigger changes amended into SB-177, the Recognition of Non-Resident Medical Cannabis Cards. This is a great thing for the state’s medical cannabis program, in being able to show compassion and accommodate the patient’s from other states. It could allow some medical cannabis tourism and ease travel for patients in others states. Reciprocity could generate revenue for the state and help lower current prices that are oddly higher at the moment for the program.
One portion that was removed during the Senate Floor debate that the House members will hopefully add back in was, presumptive eligibility into medical cannabis program with in 24 hrs after the patient’s doctor has recommended medical cannabis. They removed the following: “The department shall presume eligible and issue, within twenty-four hours of receipt of application completed in accordance with Subsection B of this section and department rules, a registry identification card to any person who applies for a registry identification card. Within thirty days of receipt of an application, the department shall verify the information contained in an application submitted pursuant to LECUA law.”
This is a very important section that needs serious reconsidering as the qualifying health conditions in the medical cannabis program are all chronic health conditions and some that are terminal. Once a doctor determines with their patient the right treatment to go with, it is started that day if it involves a taking pill and therefore this should also be provided for treatment with medical cannabis. The State has 30 days to issue a patient card and currently the Department of Health is doing a good job by issuing patient cards in just under two weeks under current rules. Patients applying into the program have also past away waiting for a card. Presumptive eligibility is the best way to prevent patients from waiting for life saving medicine and should be part of a compassionate use program.
As New Mexico works to define a model for legalization of cannabis in New Mexico, it must protect and improve the state’s medical cannabis program and put patients first as well, lawmakers have a lot of history to contend with. 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.
Jason Barker - Medical Cannabis Patient & Organizerwith the LECUA Patient’s Coalition Of New Mexico