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Medical cannabis bill wins House approval

Mature medical cannabis plants at the Ultra Health growing facility, photographed in 2015. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — A proposal heading to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham would prohibit out-of-state residents from participating in New Mexico’s medical marijuana program.

The legislation, Senate Bill 139, won House approval 44-19. It passed the Senate last week.

Supporters of the bill said it would “fix” a change in state law enacted last year that opened the door for Texas residents and others who live outside New Mexico to get medical marijuana ID cards if they meet qualifying criteria.

Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, presented the bill during Monday’s debate. She said more than 600 out-of-state residents have enrolled in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program.

They will be able to keep their cannabis cards, she said, but wouldn’t be permitted to renew them when they expire.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque.

The proposal triggered an unusual abstention this session.

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, notified his colleagues last week that he wouldn’t cast a vote on the bill or participate in determining its committee assignments — because the legislation would affect a lawsuit he’s involved in as a private attorney.

He wasn’t present on the House floor Monday when the bill was debated and passed.

Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, presided over the House debate, sitting in the speaker’s chair during Egolf’s absence.

It isn’t unusual for other members of the House to preside over debates periodically when Egolf is unavailable or wants to take a seat on the floor to participate in debate.


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