Late Friday night, the New Mexico State Senate approved a bill that would make changes to New Mexico’s medical marijuana law. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for consideration.The measure was a collaboration between Sen. McSorley (D-Bernalillo) and Rep. Gentry (R-Bernalillo). Sen. McSorley sponsored the initial measure to make changes to the Lynn Pierson and Erin Armstrong Compassionate Use Act (LECUA) this legislative session. Representative Gentry introduced a similar measure that included input from the Office of the Governor. Senator McSorley supported Rep. Gentry’s bill and helped get it through the state Senate. HB 527 passed the Senate (28-9) and the House (45-16). This is the first time that the LECUA has successfully been amended by the legislature since it was signed into law in 2007.The Governor has 20 days to either veto or sign the legislation.
The most significant provision in the legislation would allow New Mexicans who have been diagnosed with opioid use disorder by a licensed practitioner to be eligible for the Medical Cannabis Program. No other medical marijuana program in the country specifically lists opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition.
“Governor Martinez has the opportunity to save lives by signing HB 527 into law. Marijuana is a safe and effective medicine for problematic substance use, and we need to recognize it as such, not doing so would be negligent,” said Jessica Gelay, New Mexico Policy Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Research has shown that marijuana can lower opioid cravings, side effects, and withdrawal symptoms and enhances the analgesic effects of opioids.”
Nationally, in 2015, more people died from opioid overdoses than died from HIV/AIDS when that epidemic peaked in the 1990s, and New Mexico suffers from a disproportionate rate of opioid overdoses compared to nearly every other state in the nation.
The bill also directs the Department of Health to create rules to establish reciprocity for medical marijuana patients from other states. Similar rules already exist several other states including Nevada, Arizona, Rhode Island, Michigan, Montana, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Maine. Other changes include adding limited patient rights’ protections to ensure medical marijuana patients are not denied vital medical treatments (organ donation) and that parental rights cannot be terminated simply for participating in the program.
More than 33,000 New Mexicans are qualified to participate in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program, which is administered by the Department of Health (DOH). Patients are certified by a medical practitioner to have one of 21 serious medical conditions and must register with DOH in order to become a qualified patient.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation’s leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.