By Phaedra Haywood originally published in the Santa Fe New Mexican on August 23rd, 2021
A judge has ordered the state Department of Health and the Regulation and Licensing Department to stop enforcing medical cannabis purchase limits under and an old law and to begin operating under the new Cannabis Regulation Act — or argue why the agencies should not do so.
Medical patients were previously limited to purchasing 8 ounces of cannabis in a 90-day period. The limit was enforced by a tracking system used by all dispensaries to monitor how much each patient purchased every 90 days and to cut them off when they reached their limit.
Under the new law — which was passed in March and legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and over as of June 29 — marijuana users will be able to purchase up to 2 ounces at a time when retail sales become legal by April.
State District Judge Benjamin Chavez issued a writ on the issue Friday in response to a petition Bernalillo County medical cannabis patient Jason Barker filed in July, arguing continued enforcement of the old limits were illegal and kept him from purchasing as much cannabis as he needed to treat his serious medical condition.
Barker named both state agencies and various employees of each as defendants in his lawsuit because medical cannabis regulatory duties are still in the process of being transferred from the Department of Health to the Regulation and Licensing Department, according to his complaint.
In the alternative, the writ says, the state agencies could choose to appear in court to argue why they should not comply with the judge’s order.
A spokeswoman for the Regulation and Licensing Department’s Cannabis Control Division wrote in an email: “The Cannabis Control Division is reviewing the writ and does not comment on pending litigation. CCD is committed to ensuring that medical cannabis patients can get the medicine they need in accordance with the law.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health declined to comment on the pending litigation.
“My client is certainly encouraged and appreciative of the District Court’s order, which recognizes neither the Department of Health or Regulation and Licensing Department can take rights away from medical cannabis patients that they have under state law,” said Barker’s attorney, Jacob Candelaria, who is also a state senator.