News, Politics, Treatment

There’s Hope for Incarcerated Medical Cannabis Patients in New Mexico

January 22, 2021 04:30 pm ET
There’s Hope for Incarcerated Medical Cannabis Patients in New Mexico

Cannabis legalization is taking center stage in many different facets of life today. In the past, employers could reprimand or even fire employees for their cannabis consumption on or off the clock. In many places, practices such as this still exist. With more states in America passing medical cannabis laws than ever before, the inevitable question of how we treat medical cannabis patients is surfacing its head more frequently. If we are going to make people visit doctors, obtain medical recommendations, and purchase med cards, then we should continue to treat these patients exactly as patients. If you are like many other Americans, chances are you take some form of prescription medication. You’ve gone to the doctor, and through medical advice and recommendation, you have started a regimen prescribed or recommended by your doctor. Should you find yourself in trouble with the law, you won’t go without your medication. Prisons and jails follow through with doctor recommended prescriptions except for when it comes to cannabis. Medical cannabis patients who find themselves incarcerated often find themselves ostracized when they ask for their medicine.

Trust me; this is no laughing matter. Correctional institutions still have a viewpoint of cannabis as an illegal drug. The problem with this is that all correctional institutions are not federal. The state and federal governments often split the profit made from housing prisoners by moving them from state-owned prisons to privately owned ones.

Historical Day for Patients’ Rights in New Mexico

Finally, medical cannabis patients are starting to see justice in a system entangled with deceit and corruption. On a historical day for cannabis activism, New Mexico State Senator Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque won a historic ruling. The short and skinny is that anyone incarcerated in the state of New Mexico, whether it’s in a prison cell, probation, or house arrest, must be allowed their legal right to medical cannabis. Senator Candelaria was quoted saying;

“There’s no discretion under the Medical Cannabis Act. You must allow this. While the criminal industrial complex may have pushed back or some concerns-take those to the legislator. Because until such time as a legislator changes the law the law is clear: you must under existing law provide incarcerated persons with the ability to access medical cannabis free from penalty. That’s the law.”

Mr. Candelaria is prepared to enforce this ruling and protect the rights of others as he made it clear on his intentions of sending notices to prisons and jails asking for their compliance. Senator Candelaria is an attorney who has served in office since 2013.

The Case That Drove the Change

This particular situation came to the attention of Mr. Candelera via the representation of an Albuquerque resident named Joe Montaño. Mr. Montaño was convicted of driving drunk in 2019. After the successful completion of a mental health treatment program, the court allowed Mr. Montaño to serve his jail sentence out through house arrest. While on house arrest, Mr. Montaño consumed cannabis, for which he has a state-issued medical card for. This resulted in him violating the conditions of house arrest and serving over 30 days in jail. Mr. Montaño’ s attorney filed a motion going after an order to allow Mr. Montaño access to cannabis while incarcerated.

The order was granted, and a monumental victory was awarded for cannabis patient rights in America. Ultra Health is the biggest medical cannabis company in New Mexico. Upon news of the ruling, they released a statement saying;

“This is a major victory not only for Mr. Montaño but for every medical cannabis patient in New Mexico and across the United States. This ruling exemplifies the spirit of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act: that cannabis is medicine, and every patient deserves the legal right to access their medicine. “- CEO and President of Ultra Health Duke Rodriguez.

It Could Lay Grounds for Even Larger Changes

It will be quite interesting to see where this one goes. Medical cannabis patients deserve the right to their medicine, whether they are incarcerated or not. Until laws are changed, it appears that correctional institutions in New Mexico must allow access to cannabis for medical cannabis patients incarcerated; otherwise, they risk being sued.

Since the government has chosen to regulate cannabis as a medicine to benefit from tax dollars, it is time for them to start treating it as medicine. With this historical win in New Mexico, it is time to ensure that the same access applies to every medical cannabis patient that is incarcerated in any manner in any state in the United States.

This case should also in my opinion be exemplary grounds for a major lawsuit requiring insurance companies to pick up the expense of medical cannabis the same way they do for prescription drugs. It is simply not right that one should have to choose between paying their bills and a hot meal versus being able to afford their medication. Congratulations to New Mexico patients, activists, and pro-legalization leaders for this historic win and the framework you have provided for other states to follow.

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