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New Mexico judge broadens medical marijuana program

A New Mexico judge has ordered state officials to issue identification cards for the medical marijuana program to all qualifying patients, including people who live outside the state.

The judge's order Monday was in response to an emergency petition filed by three out-of-state residents after the state Department of Health denied their applications to enter the cannabis program, the Albuquerque Journal reported .

The judge set an Aug. 19 deadline for the state agency to argue why the ruling should not be made permanent. An agency spokesman said Monday that they have not seen the order yet, but they plan to file a response.

A state law that took effect in June removed the requirement that only New Mexico residents are qualified to enroll in the cannabis program.

Agency officials have argued that the change was not intended to allow nonresidents to obtain medical marijuana cards. They claim allowing nonresidents in the program would encourage the transport of cannabis across state lines — a violation of federal and state laws.

Arizona resident Duke Rodriguez is one of the three who filed the emergency petition. He is the president and CEO of Ultra Health LLC, a medical marijuana producer.

"It's unfortunate these matters have to be adjudicated in the courts when the law is clear and specific," Rodriguez said. "This was the best outcome possible and bodes well for nonresident patients having uninterrupted access to medical cannabis as the Legislature fully intended."

The state has recorded 74,100 active patients in the program as of June. It recorded 48,861 in September 2017.

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