By: Natalia Ankiewicz and Jamesha Begay / NM News Port
The New Mexico Cannabis Legalization Working Group, created by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, is laying plans to legalize recreational cannabis—without losing medical cannabis patients.
During a press conference at the end of the last legislative session in Santa Fe, Grisham said that the next issue she wanted to tackle was cannabis legalization.
“She said if somebody could bring a bill to my desk for marijuana legalization I’ll sign it,” said Albuquerque City Council member and Chairman of the NMCLWG Pat Davis.
He said the group is working carefully to protect the medical program while they design a system to regulate the recreational industry. They hope to present their proposal to Grisham by mid-October.
“Anybody who wants to sell recreationally has to have a plan with the Department of Health to cover their patients first,” Davis said. “And if their patient loses supply there’s an opportunity to close or shut down or suspend [their] adult use sales.”
Samantha Martinez is a New Mexico resident and medical cannabis patient. Martinez said there is a big difference between people who use cannabis as medicine and those who want to use it for fun.
“There are totally different needs,” Martinez said. “One is for interest and the other is actual need.”
Martinez suffers from PTSD and has been a medical cannabis cardholder for two years—she considers herself lucky.
“I was fortunate enough to have a nurse practitioner that offered it to me, I didn’t realize I was in much need,” Martinez said.
The two uses also have different needs and wants from the movement towards legalizing recreational cannabis that will affect medical patients according to Davis.
“We’re gonna see some producers who are only gonna wanna do medical, but that’s their foundation and they want to stay there,” Davis said. “There are some people who only wanna do recreation but are willing to do medical if that’s what it takes to get a recreational license.”
He said the group wants to include voices of everybody who might be affected, so “that we didn’t create a system like Nevada for instance, where we lose a quarter of our medical patients because there’s no supply.”
In a 2018 Cannabis Study presented to the NMCLWG it showed that Oregon, Nevada, and Colorado lost a portion of their medical cannabis patients when they introduced recreational cannabis.
David said that the NMCLWG is taking into account the experience other states have had when legalizing recreational cannabis, and combining that information with studies from previous attempts in New Mexico.
“Working Group members go through these huge white papers to say ‘here’s how all the other states did it,’ and at the end of that process they vote on what [option] they like best,” he said.
The group is traveling around the state while they work, and as they move around, Davis said more medical patients are becoming aware of the efforts to legalize recreational cannabis—which is exactly what the working group wants.
“Our challenge is to be sure that it’s just not Albuquerque and Santa Fe based,” he said. “Everybody gets to participate.”
“Reaching out to a different population is a good idea,” said Martinez, because it “keeps the medical patients kind of at a little bit more importance compared to those who want to do it recreationally.”
Natalia Ankiewicz is a student reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jamesha Begay is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be reached on Twitter @Mesha_Randomness or at email@example.com.