The state Department of Health last month published its new Medical Cannabis Program regulations, and the state’s largest producer of medical cannabis is challenging them in court.
New Mexico Top Organics-Ultra Health Inc. is asking a state district judge in Santa Fe to send the department back to the drawing board, claiming the agency “simply copied and pasted regulations from other states without considering how those out of state regulations would or could perform in the real world in New Mexico.”
Ultra Health Chief Executive Officer and President Duke Rodriguez has sued the Department of Health multiple times — contesting sanctions, gross receipts tax applicability to medical cannabis and the definition of adequate supply.
He’s often won.
But Rodriguez said he continues asking the court to intervene in the department’s administration of the program not because he’s litigious but because, as the largest producer, he is often the first to be affected by the department’s regulations.
His current lawsuit — filed Friday following the state’s June 23 publication of the new rules — asks the court to find that a number of the department’s new rules are “arbitrary and capricious” and should be repealed and rewritten.
“They need to go back, listen to stakeholders and start the entire process over,” he said.
Rodriguez said his top complaints about the new regulations include:
• Testing requirements for pesticides, heavy metals and mold are “the strictest tolerance levels in the United States.”
• The department’s regulations concerning where hemp is grown and whether hemp extracts can be combined with cannabis infringe on the state Department of Agriculture’s territory.
• Labeling requirements are onerous and require producers to do double the work.
• No clear criteria for when and why the department can suspend or revoke producers’ licenses, with no remedy for appeal.
Rodriguez’s lawsuit says the department has provided “no rational connection between the facts found and the choices made, and its rule-making process “omitted careful and informed consideration of relevant factors an important aspects of medical cannabis regulation in New Mexico.”
A Department of Health spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.
According to statistics the Department of Health published in June, there are currently just over 94,000 people enrolled in state’s Medical Cannabis Program. Of those, nearly 50,000 qualify for medical marijuana use based on a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. About 30,000 qualify based on severe chronic pain diagnosis and almost 5,000 have cancer.