Judge Orders Agency to Let Nonresidents Into NM Medical Cannabis Program

Ultra Health triggers nationwide cannabis reform with ruling to allow three-year cards for nonresidents

SANTA FE, N.M., Sept. 24, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Santa Fe District Court Judge Bryan Biedscheid affirmed a Permanent Writ of Mandamus court order on Monday, officially eliminating the residency requirement to participate in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program.

Previously, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) refused to issue medical cannabis cards to nonresidents due to a possible stay or reconsideration on the issue, despite the judge’s final order to allow nonresidents into the program. Judge Biedscheid denied the respondents’ motions for reconsideration and denied the request to stay the court’s order.

“[The Permanent Writ of Mandamus] is applicable to everyone. I think the law is clear,” Judge Biedscheid stated in the courtroom. “I look to the language of that statute first and foremost to determine legislative intent,” he continued.

The Permanent Writ of Mandamus specifically states, any person who qualifies under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act will be eligible to receive a three-year patient registry card and purchase medical cannabis in New Mexico.

Texans, Mexican nationals, and residents of any other state or country may receive a three-year medical cannabis card if they have been diagnosed with one of 28 qualifying conditions and are certified by a New Mexico practitioner. The ruling is expected to trigger nationwide cannabis reform and medical cannabis care portability.

The expansion of the program is the result of a Writ of Mandamus filed by three petitioners – two residents of Texas and a resident of Arizona. The petitioners applied for medical cannabis patient status after the updated Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act became effective June 14, 2019. The updated Act includes the change in definition of qualified patient from a “New Mexico resident” to a “person.”

As a result of the affirmed Permanent Writ of Mandamus, patient enrollment in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program is expected to grow substantially, and demand for medical cannabis will be greater than ever.

“As previously attested by the Respondent, Kenny Vigil [Medical Cannabis Program Manager]: if only five percent of two million Texas residents were to enroll in the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program, enrollment in the Program would increase by 100,000, more than doubling the current enrollment of approximately 77,000 patients,” NMDOH Secretary Kathy Kunkel stated in an Affidavit on September 12, 2019. Texas is home to more than 29 million people, roughly two million of whom live within 2 hours of the New Mexico border.

“NMDOH is required by law to enroll non-residents who meet the statutory requirements,” said Duke Rodriguez, CEO and President of Ultra Health®. “The NMDOH can no longer ignore the Court’s Permanent Writ of Mandamus and there is no support in law for continued disregard of the Judge’s clear and unambiguous order.  The priority now is ensuring an adequate supply of medical cannabis for all qualified patients.”

As of August 31, 2019 there are 77,141 patients in the program, an increase of 34% over last year.

Ultra Health is New Mexico’s #1 Cannabis Company and the largest vertically integrated medical cannabis provider in the United States. The provider currently operates 17 dispensary locations statewide, with another 13 stores slated to open by early 2020. Ultra Health provides unparalleled medical cannabis care by producing accurately dosed, smokeless cannabis products such as sublingual tablets, oils, pastilles, suppositories and more through its partnership with Israeli pharmaceutical group Panaxia. Ultra Health has been on the forefront of patient-rights issues and continues to fight for adequate supply and rural access in the New Mexico medical cannabis market.

Contact: Marissa Novel 480-404-6699         

A video accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/8542b807-f580-459c-8ef3-9ed5b4053abd