New Mexico is a Compassionate use state, meaning that New Mexico residents may register and participate in the New Mexico Medical Cannabis program.
In 2007 New Mexico’s Legislators passed the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, which essentially made cannabis legal as medicine for qualifying conditions, and the list is a long and very inclusive for a wide range of illnesses and conditions.
Only state residents can participate in the New Mexico Medical Cannabis program. I asked a former State Senator about reciprocity and if it was considered when creating the Medical Cannabis Law in New Mexico. She said that as far as she knew, it hadn’t even come up. Reciprocity is a term used in the Medical Cannabis that relates to whether or not a state will recognize and respect patients with Medical Cannabis cards from other states. There weren’t that many states with Medical Cannabis Laws in the U.S. at that point, and the lawmakers were more concerned with protecting their own citizens with a law that had no loopholes. As it stands now, only New Mexico residents with Medical Cannabis Program cards are protected under the law. That is not to say your personal encounter with law enforcement would get you arrested or have your medicine confiscated. That will vary from officer to officer, but it is not a priority for most law enforcement, especially in the cities, if you are found to possess small quantities of marijuana and are not smoking it in public, smoking while driving or disturbing the peace.
Presently there are 20 states in the U.S.as well as Washington DC that have protected their citizens with medical marijuana, (or cannabis, the preferred term in New Mexico), compassionate use laws. In some of these states the laws are pitiful, like NJ and Illinois, both who make it very difficult or nearly impossible for patients in desperate need to qualify or even obtain cannabis as medicine. In many states marijuana is not legal, but the penalties are less harsh and there are no more mandatory jail sentences. At this time in New Mexico, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana for non-medical purposes is punishable by a $50-100 fine and up to 15 days in jail. A second offense, or a conviction for possession of more than an ounce, can lead to a fine of up to $1,000 and a prison term of up to one year.
A bill passed the NM House of Representatives in the 2013 Legislative session which would reduce the penalty of up to one ounce in personal possession to just a $50 fine, but the session ran out before it could go to the Senate. There was also a bill that passed a Senate Committee that would task the Economic Development Department to study the impact of regulating marijuana like cigarettes and alcohol. This is seen as a promising sign toward legalization in the near future. I think that with legalized marijuana in neighboring Colorado, legalization will happen soon here in New Mexico. I am sure our legislators will be watching Colorado and Washington very carefully. In the mean time we hope for full decriminalization in 2014.
I will update this information as it all unfolds. For more information on the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program, you may find these links helpful: