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Medical pot program draws nonresidents

SANTA FE – A total of 130 out-of-state residents – nearly all of them from Texas – have enrolled in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program since a state judge ruled in August that a change in state law had eliminated an in-state residency requirement.

The out-of-state residents are among 78,362 people enrolled in the rapidly-growing program as of October, according to new patient figures released this week by the state Department of Health.

Of the 130 out-of-state residents enrolled in the medical marijuana program, 119 are Texas residents, an agency spokesman said Thursday. Other states with residents enrolled in the program included Colorado, Arizona, Montana, Illinois and Kansas.

There was also one Mexican national enrolled in the program, according to DOH.

However, the participation of non-New Mexicans in the state’s medical cannabis program remains tentative.

That’s because the Department of Health and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office are appealing District Judge Bryan Biedscheid’s ruling that New Mexico must allow nonresidents who meet qualifying requirements to participate in its medical cannabis program.

It’s unclear when the Court of Appeals might act on the matter, but the state could seek to rescind ID cards issued to out-of-state residents if the lower court ruling is ultimately overturned.

The legal dispute started when three out-of-state residents who had their applications denied filed a court challenge against the state. The lawsuit was focused on a revised definition of “qualified patient” in a bill that was signed into law earlier this year by Lujan Grisham.

If it’s ultimately upheld, the judge’s ruling could eventually cause enrollment in the medical marijuana program to double, according to state attorneys.

In court filings, they have argued that the statute change was not aimed at allowing out-of-state residents to participate in New Mexico’s medical marijuana program, describing that part of the bill as a drafting error.

Overall enrollment in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program has skyrocketed in recent years – it’s up nearly 25% from one year ago, when 62,889 individuals were enrolled – as additional dispensaries have been opened around the state and more qualifying conditions have been added.

As of last month, about three-quarters of those enrolled in the program had one of two different qualifying conditions – post-traumatic stress disorder and severe chronic pain.

Among the conditions added in June by Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel, there were 91 enrolled patients diagnosed with opioid use disorder, 30 with autism and 18 with Alzheimer’s disease, according to DOH figures.

Meanwhile, the expansion of New Mexico’s medical cannabis program comes as lawmakers are set to consider a proposal during the upcoming 30-day legislative session to legalize recreational marijuana use and tax its sales. Eleven states have already legalized cannabis for adult use.

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