City Council will consider a new ordinance that would place heavy restrictions on the distribution of medical marijuana within city borders.
The new law would essentially ban state-licensed medical marijuana distributors from locating in city limits and selling to patients.
City Councilor Jason Perry proposed the set of rules Tuesday to the Planning and Zoning Committee.
The new ordinance would require medical marijuana to only be sold by a licensed pharmacist. And, each prescribed dose would need a state-issued controlled substance number and federally issued Drug Enforcement Administration number.
These do not yet exist for the drug.
“Until the DEA can find a way to safely administer medical cannabis, I don’t want to get into the gambling game with the devil,” Perry said.
“Right now, the DEA does not prescribe for Schedule 1 (controlled substances). The day will come,” he said.
Cities cannot be less restrictive with state issues or state laws.
“In this particular situation, we can’t be less restrictive, but we can be more restrictive,” Perry said. “We are going to be requiring it to be a licensed pharmacy. My reason for that … it is a prescription.”
Perry’s main reason for proposing the city law was the inconsistency of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient, levels in plants.
The purpose of the ordinance would be “to ensure all legal prescription drugs in all forms, both state and federally, are dispensed in such a manner that is both safe and consistent.”
Medical marijuana cannot currently be administered at consistent doses, according to information provided to him, Perry said.
“Maybe I would feel better if this was the only option for people to get relief from pain or tremors. But I know there are options for all 19 conditions. This is not the save-all that some corners would want us to believe.”
Perry consulted with Chaves County Magistrate Judge K.C. Rogers. Rogers, a retired New Mexico State Police drug enforcement officer and authority on narcotics, advised Perry that every marijuana plant differs in its chemical make-up, Perry said.
“You may pull out one and test it and it may be perfectly safe. You take the next one and it may be way above,” Perry said. “There is not a way to regulate a safe form (of the drug).”
New Mexico was the first in the nation to have its health department license and regulate a nonprofit medical marijuana distribution system. People can be issued prescription cards if they qualify with any of the 19 approved conditions. At least 170 state-licensed patients live in Chaves County.
The state has 23 licensed nonprofit distributors, mostly in the northern region. The DOH has announced a plan to add 12 more distributors in the state to meet an increasing demand.
Under a new proposal, producers would be able to boost crops to keep up with a growing number of patients.
Perry said the city had looked into medical marijuana issues with zoning since 2010, as it related to state and federal laws. He was concerned about legally allowing a business to open only to later find that a change in federal administration would put the city in hot water.
“The current administration is turning a blind eye to cannabis,” Perry said. “What if we get another president, not Obama? Now we put ourselves in a situation of a federal indictment and have to deal with a federal lawsuit. We’re not saying anything is illegal. This is how everything is distributed. We’re one step above and ahead of every city in New Mexico.”
His other option was to propose to ban sales completely, Perry said.
“This is saying, once the feds get their ducks in a row, everything goes forward,” Perry said.
After speaking to a pharmacist, he was enlightened, he said. The substance in marijuana can already be prescribed in other pharmaceuticals and taken without getting high, he said.
“It’s the exact same thing,” Perry said. “It’s not a matter of anyone not getting relief of their pain. The drug-induced high does not come with it. This is just saying, if any prescription is being given out as prescribed, it needs to be handled by a licensed pharmacy.”
Committee members and Councilors Tabitha Denny and Savino Sanchez voted to send the ordinance to City Council April 10. Councilors will consider whether to advertise the ordinance for a public hearing, in order for the new law to be considered at its meeting in May.
Compassionate Distributors, which operates a state-licensed store in Ruidoso, has invested in a building in Roswell and expects to open its doors to the satellite location within the week.
The distributor secured a city permit by applying as a professional medical office that provides alternative health care.
Perry and city staff have researched past city licenses and said he believes the owners of Compassionate Distributors misrepresented the business. He intends to seek action to revoke the license.