Drug Law

Medical Marijuana Patient Denied Treatment in Detention in New Mexico

| by Marijuana Policy Project

By Morgan Fox

According to a local news station, a New Mexico man who is registered with the state’s medical marijuana program was denied access to his medical marijuana, as well as any temporary replacement medication, while being held in the Dona Ana County Detention Center. The explanations offered by the detention center were confusing to say the least.

“[M]arijuana at this time is not approved to go into that facility,” said a spokesperson. “One of the reasons is when you smoke, whether it’s tobacco or marijuana, everyone around you is smoking it, too.”

Ignoring the fact that there are multiple delivery methods for medical marijuana other than smoking, such as vaporization or ingestion, this argument makes no sense. Scientific studies have shown that second-hand contact with marijuana smoke has little to no effect on the body. (Anecdotally, probation and parole officers have long rejected the “I was at a party where people were smoking” defense for failed drug tests.)

Even if this were not the case, concessions for certain types of medication are made daily in the corrections system. For example, it could be dangerous to allow diabetic inmates to use hypodermic needles when in the company of other prisoners, but they are not denied access to their medicine. Instead, they are allowed to take their medication in a more secure and private location that does not present a danger to others.

The Dona Ana County Detention Center surely could have taken steps to make this happen. The staff must disagree with the voters of the state of New Mexico that marijuana is a legitimate medicine, since the policy of the detention center is that “if someone is detained and needs medications, we will make sure that they are properly medicated.”

According to the detainee, they did not. Even though they had his medicine in their possession, which they returned to him upon his release! Can someone please explain this?

Dona Ana County Detention Center (not to mention the detainee) is very lucky that the consequences of this incident were not worse. They very easily could have been, as they were for Jonathan Magbie, a paralyzed medical marijuana patient who died in a Washington, D.C. jail after being denied adequate medical attention.