New Mexico’s medical
marijuana law: the Attorney General’s advice
—GARY K. KING, NEW MEXICO ATTORNEY GENERAL
This seems like a good time to explain the process
used to determine our advice to the New Mexico Department of Health
(DOH) regarding implementation of the new state medical marijuana
The Health Department asked if their workers would
risk federal prosecution for helping to distribute and produce medical
marijuana for patients who met program eligibility requirements.
DOH also asked if it had the authority to formulate plans to implement
the medical marijuana program authorized by the new law.
Our answer to the first question was yes, possession
and distribution of marijuana is against federal law. This means
that state workers who become involved with the program in this
way would be breaking a federal criminal law. It is our responsibility
to advise all state agencies on how to stay in compliance with state
and federal laws that apply to them.
The next part of our advice to DOH is perhaps where
some might have thought that I had some discretion or control, but
let me spell this out very clearly now; state law says the Attorney
General can be removed from office for even giving advice to anyone,
including any DOH employee who has committed a crime. Clearly, it
is legally impossible by New Mexico statute for the Attorney General
to defend state employees who have run afoul of federal marijuana
Our response to the question of whether the DOH was
authorized to make plans to implement the new medical marijuana
law was yes. The law was approved by the Legislature. The health
department can make all the plans it needs to formulate a system
to execute the provisions contained in the law.
Obviously, this is a “Catch 22” of sorts,
but the Attorney General’s Office must abide by its legal
responsibilities prescribed by the New Mexico constitution.
I know the Governor has petitioned the President of
the United States to help resolve this dilemma and I hope there
will be a resolution that will allow the people who are suffering
to alleviate their pain.
Understanding that the subject of medical use of marijuana
is a complicated issue, my responsibility here is to provide sound
legal advice. Thank you for allowing me to explain the position
of the Attorney General’s Office on this matter.
Game and Fish Department continues
to monitor for avian influenza
The Department of Game and Fish and other government
agencies continue to monitor wild and domestic poultry and waterfowl
in the state for avian influenza, including the H5N1 “bird
flu” virus that has spread through birds in Asia, Europe,
On September 27, poultry at a commercial farm in Saskatchewan,
Canada, tested positive for the H7N3 virus, a strain that is highly
pathogenic to poultry, but not humans, and has not been associated
with wild migratory birds. In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture
placed a temporary ban on the importation of poultry and commercial
shipments of live birds, hatching eggs, and unprocessed avian products
from Saskatchewan. No importation ban was issued for hunter-harvested
However, U.S. Customs interpreted the September 27
USDA ban to include wild birds, and mistakenly confiscated, destroyed,
or ordered hunters to dispose of more than four thousand legally
harvested ducks and geese before crossing the border into the United
States. When informed of the error on September 28, U.S. Customs
began letting hunter-harvested birds across the border again.
To date, the H5N1 virus has not been detected in the
U.S. or any country in the western hemisphere. Due to recent increased
surveillance in both wild birds and poultry, many states have found
various low-pathogen avian influenza strains in wild birds. These
strains are no threat to human health.
Avian influenza viruses occur naturally in wild bird
populations, but New Mexico has not had any recent outbreaks in
domestic poultry. New Mexico does not have live bird markets like
those associated with outbreaks in other states.
For more information about avian influenza, visit