A New Mexico district court judge ruled last week that Bernalillo County’s Metropolitan Detention Center must allow inmates who qualify for medical cannabis access to their medicine, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.
The case stems from a 2019 drunk-driving conviction of Joe Montaño, who was allowed to serve his 90-day jail sentence from home. One of the conditions, though, was that Montaño not use any illegal drugs. Montaño, a registered patient in the state, did use cannabis as recommended by his physician and was ultimately jailed for 30 days for violating the terms of his house arrest.
Attorneys for Bernalillo County argued that because cannabis remains federally illegal, Montaño’s use “was a violation of law contrary to his agreement to comply with all city, county, state and federal laws and ordinances.”
Second Judicial District Judge Lucy Solimon ruled that the state’s medical cannabis law allowed people in state custody – whether in jail, on house arrest, or probation – who qualify for the program to access medical cannabis.
State Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D), who was also the attorney representing Montaño, said the ruling makes clear that there “is no discretion under the Medical Cannabis Act” with regard to allowing those in the state criminal justice system access to the program.
“While the criminal industrial complex may have pushback or some concerns – take those to the Legislature. Because until such time as the Legislature 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.” – Candelaria, in an interview with the New Mexican
In 2019, lawmakers approved a bill allowing medical cannabis access for individuals “serving a period of probation or parole or who is in the custody or under the supervision of the state or a local government pending trial as part of a community supervision program.” The state Corrections Department subsequently issued guidance allowing registered patients on parole or probation to use legally-obtained cannabis without penalty.
Candelaria indicated he plans to send notice to the state’s jails and prisons asking them to comply with the 2nd Circuit ruling. He added that if the jails or prisons try to “make things more difficult…the remedy will be more litigation.”