When a state regulation has no compelling reason to exist – especially one that shrouds an important state function in secrecy – it takes decisive leadership to get it off the books.
Gov. Susana Martinez’s decision to direct the New Mexico Health Department to dump a provision in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program that kept the names of licensed medical marijuana producers secret is a perfect example of logic – and transparency – prevailing over furtive regulation.
Ever since New Mexico approved its medical marijuana program in 2007, regulations have kept the names of licensed pot growers, dispensaries and their employees confidential. Although proponents of such secrecy claimed that making that information public would prove detrimental – for reasons ranging from federal prosecution of growers to security of production locations – no such problems have arisen. The federal government has not intervened in state-sanctioned programs, and information on dispensary locations has always been relatively easy to find. Dispensaries advertise their businesses.
The Journal has long been critical of this Richardson administration era policy.
A lawsuit filed July 9 against the Health Department by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and freelance journalist Peter St. Cyr – who has covered the state’s medical marijuana issue for years – argued that the secrecy regulation wasn’t permitted under the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act, that it deprives New Mexicans of information about their neighborhoods, distorts the market and could lead to “cronyism and corruption” in the awarding of lucrative state licenses.
It bears repeating that there has been no effort to compel disclosure of the names of patients.
Now that the governor has decisively opted for transparency over secrecy in this important issue, the Health Department should immediately release information on the licensed commercial producers and information about the related dispensaries.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.