The NM judge invalidates the rules for medical cannabis

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A New Mexico District Court judge ruled Thursday that the rules passed by the state’s Medical Cannabis Program last year are virtually invalid.

In his ruling, District Court Judge Bryan Biedscheid repeatedly wrote that the rule changes announced by the Medical Cannabis Program last year did not contain “substantial evidence” to support the claims made by the program and the New Mexico Department of Health, which oversees the program .

Biedscheid also wrote that the rule changes are invalid because the department and program did not consult the state’s medical cannabis advisory board before making the changes.

The lawsuit was originally filed by a group of medical cannabis companies and a patient qualified to grow their own medical cannabis. The group did not initially attempt to reverse the entire list of rule changes, but Biedscheid reversed the rule changes in their entirety.

“The court hopes that its additional findings and conclusions will give the department some pre-trial detention and avoid additional pre-trial detention due to a lack of substantive evidence,” wrote Biedscheid.

Changes that the group of petitioners wanted to reverse included increased standards for plant testing for heavy metals and pesticides, as well as requiring cannabis producers to change their license when physical changes are made to their facilities.

The group of petitioners claimed that some of the rules were “arbitrary and capricious” and that increased testing standards without sound scientific evidence would ultimately raise prices and negatively affect cannabis patients.

While Biedscheid decided that the department was not following the correct procedure, he made no comment on the merits or shortcomings of the rule changes.

Prior to last year’s rule changes, the Medical Cannabis Program and DOH had already introduced testing standards, so Thursday’s decision will not completely remove testing and labeling requirements.

However, changes made last year included taking into account a temporary increase in additional crops for growers under certain circumstances and rules for areas of consumption. In 2019, the New Mexico Legislature passed bill allowing areas of medical cannabis use, but leaving much of the details to departmental rules. So far, no medical cannabis producer has opened a consumption area in the state. These rules were issued along with the increased testing standards and labeling requirements.

It is unclear whether the division will appeal the court’s decision or start the legislative process again.

A DOH spokesman said the department is “aware of the judgment” and “is considering options”.

The verdict came during the second week of the state’s legislative term, a busy time for state officials and a time when many lawmakers are hoping for recreational cannabis legalization. Legislators have yet to enact law to legalize recreational cannabis, but at least one previous attempt has suggested removing the medical cannabis program from the department.