Pubdate: Tue, 05 Jan 2016
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2016 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Olivier Uyttebrouck


Proposed Rules Would List Distributors but Not Those Who Produce Own Supply

In a strongly worded letter, New Mexico Attorney General Hector 
Balderas said Monday that a Department of Health proposal to disclose 
the identities of licensed nonprofit producers of medical cannabis 
doesn't go far enough to abide by the state's open records law.

Balderas contends that state law doesn't authorize the agency to 
withhold the names of more than 4,000 New Mexicans licensed to grow 
their own supply of medical pot.

The proposed rule change would remove a confidentiality provision 
that conceals the names of people who grow and distribute medical 
marijuana in New Mexico.

But the proposed changes include a provision that would conceal the 
identities of personal production license holders, who on Dec. 2 
numbered 4,045.

The proposed rules also would maintain confidentiality for those 
applying to become licensed nonprofit producers until the closure of 
the application period.

In his letter to state health officials, Balderas said the state's 
medical marijuana law doesn't authorize the Department of Health to 
conceal the identities of people with personal production licenses or 
pending nonprofit producer applications.

"We believe that this regulation not only exceeds the Department of 
Health's statutory authority to promulgate rules, but also 
circumvents the mandates and intent of the IPRA (Inspection of Public 
Records Act)," Balderas wrote.

Balderas noted that the state's medical marijuana law authorizes the 
Department of Health to keep confidential the names and addresses of 
people with a registry identification card, which allows them to 
legally purchase medical pot.

But it does not authorize the agency to keep confidential the 
identities of personal producers and applications for licensed 
nonprofit producers, Balderas wrote.

"A public agency cannot unilaterally determine that it will withhold 
records by creating a confidentiality regulation, unsupported by 
legislative authority, to bypass the" open records law, he wrote.

The Department of Health said it will consider Balderas's letter 
along with other comments offered during a public comment period.

"The Medical Cannabis Program received the letter from the Attorney 
General today and is reviewing it," spokesman Kenny Vigil said in a 
written statement.

The letter and other written comments will be submitted to a hearing 
officer, who will make a recommendation to Health Secretary Rhetta 
Ward, the statement said.

Nicole Morales, president of the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Patients 
Alliance, said that releasing the names of licensed patient producers 
would create a security risk for patients who grow their own supply of pot.

"Many patients live in areas that aren't safe" from thieves and 
intruders, Morales said. "I can't imagine anyone wanting to put sick 
patients in the way of danger."

The Department of Health has licensed 23 nonprofit producers and has 
selected 12 more for licensure. The agency provides a list of 
licensed dispensaries to patients licensed to buy medical pot but 
does not provide the list to the public.

In a lawsuit filed in July, freelance journalist Peter St. Cyr and 
the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government argued that concealing 
the identify of dispensaries violates the state open records law.

Also that month, Gov. Susana Martinez issued a directive ordering the 
Department of Health to publicly identify dispensaries and their 
employees after adopting the required regulatory changes.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom