Rep. Brian Egolf

Correction appended

House Speaker Brian Egolf is recusing himself from taking part in consideration of a bill that would prohibit out-of-state residents from obtaining medical marijuana licenses in New Mexico.

In a letter to Lisa Ortiz McCutcheon, the Legislature’s chief clerk, Egolf, a lawyer, said because he is the lead counsel in an appeal of a court case tied to the bill, he will take an “abundance of caution” in recusing himself from any part of the bill’s assignments, discussion or debate.

The letter says he is doing so “in the spirit and letter of the State of New Mexico’s laws and rules relating to ethical conduct.”

A Feb. 9 Santa Fe New Mexican article about conflict of interest issues within the Legislature noted Egolf had represented the state’s largest medical cannabis company in lawsuits against the state and supported Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s push to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

During an interview for the story, Egolf declined to say whether Ultra Health remains a client, citing attorney privacy rules.

He said representing that company was “absolutely not” a conflict of interest because any vote he made on medical cannabis would result in no personal benefit to him.

A bill that would have legalized the use of recreational marijuana never made it to the House of Representatives. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to table it earlier this week, killing the bill before this year’s legislative session ends Thursday.

Egolf said Friday evening the article in The New Mexican had nothing to do with his decision to recuse himself and that he had been working on doing so for a while.

Senate Bill 139, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, would amend a recent law that says out-of-state residents cannot receive medical marijuana licenses.

The plaintiff in the case involving Egolf is a Texas resident, Harold Meyers, who lives close to Clayton and spends three days a week in New Mexico because of his work, according to court documents.

According to the Administrative Office of the Courts, more than 420 out-of-state residents have medical marijuana licenses in New Mexico.

Egolf’s letter said if the bill working its way through the Senate makes it to the House, he will let other leaders assign it to a committee and ensure he plays no role in its fate.

Correction: This story has been amended to reflect the following correction. A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Senate Bill 139 would allow residents of other states to obtain medical marijuana licenses in New Mexico even if they don't have a valid New Mexico driver's license.

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Jens Gould covers politics for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He was a correspondent for Bloomberg News in Mexico City, a regular contributor for TIME in California, and produced the video series Bravery Tapes.

(1) comment

Amber Espinosa-Trujillo

I am saddened that our state Legislature continues to leave much needed revenue on the table by failing to pass legalization for another year in a row. Adsitionally, not allowing people who do not possess a New Mexico license shows how out of touch they are with our Veteran and homeless population who need Meducal marijuana but would not possess a license as they cannot afford a car or have the means to get a license just so they can obtain this much needed medication!

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