You don’t see many Writs of Mandamus these days. Yet on August 5th, Santa Fe District Court Judge Bryan Biedscheid signed an Alternative Writ of Mandamus officially ordering the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) to allow out-of-state residents to participate in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program. Two plaintiffs from Texas and one from Arizona applied to participate in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program after an amendment to the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act (LECUA) removed the requirement that a “qualified patient” be a “resident of New Mexico.”
NMDOH had put the plaintiffs’ applications on hold because they did not provide a New Mexico address or driver’s license with their application. This was consistent with a statement NMDOH issued in June stating “New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program is only for New Mexico residents. Period.” In responding to the plaintiffs’ Mandamus petition, NMDOH claimed that allowing nonresidents in the program would encourage the transport of cannabis across state lines in direct violation of federal and state laws.
Judge Biedscheid rejected that argument, writing, “[t]he plain language of the current definition of qualified patient indicates that the qualified patient need not be a New Mexico resident.” Judge Biedscheid set August 19, 2019 as a deadline for state officials to file a written response and August 21, 2019 for a hearing on the issue.
It will be interesting to see how this decision plays out politically and legally. Allowing out-of-state residents to participate in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program could have numerous unintended legal consequences depending on what out-of-state residents do with their New Mexico medical marijuana. Politically, it will be interesting to see if any of the other 49 states have a reaction to their citizens crossing state lines and enrolling in another state’s medical marijuana program.
Be sure to check back in on our blog regularly, as we will continue to monitor developments in New Mexico and throughout the country.
According to a press release, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) has clarified that it intends to file an answer to the Writ and show cause at the August 21, 2019 hearing as to why it should not be required to enroll non-residents as qualified patients in the NMDOH Medical Cannabis Program. The NMDOH has further clarified that it will not be issuing patient cards to out-of-state residents until the court makes a final decision following the hearing. We will continue to monitor this action and report on the court’s final decision.