Egolf To Recuse Himself From Medical Marijuana Bill Vote

House Speaker Brian Egolf

By ROBERT NOTT
The New Mexican

House Speaker Brian Egolf is recusing himself from taking part in consideration of a bill that would allow residents of other states to obtain medical marijuana licenses in New Mexico even if they don’t have a valid New Mexico driver’s license.

In a letter to Lisa Ortiz McCutcheon, the Legislature’s chief clerk, Egolf, a lawyer, said that because he is the lead counsel in an appeal of a court case tied to the bill, he will take an “abundance of caution” in recusing himself from any part of the bill’s assignments, discussion or debate.

The letter says he is doing so “in the spirit and letter of the State of New Mexico’s laws and rules relating to ethical conduct”.

A Feb. 9 New Mexican article about conflict of interest issues within the Legislature noted Egolf had represented the state’s largest medical cannabis company in lawsuits against the state and supported Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s push to legalize marijuana for recreational use. 

During an interview for the story, Egolf declined to say whether Ultra Health remains a client, citing attorney privacy rules he said forbid him from doing so. He said representing that company was “absolutely not” a conflict of interest because any vote he made on medical cannabis would result in no personal benefit to him.

A bill that would have legalized the use of recreational marijuana never made it to the House of Representatives. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to table it earlier this week, condemning it to a quiet death before this year’s legislative session ends on Feb. 20.  

Egolf said Friday evening the New Mexican article had nothing to do with his decision to recuse himself and that he had been working on doing so for a while. 

Senate Bill 139, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, would amend a recent law that says out-of-state residents applying for medical marijuana licenses must provide a New Mexico driver’s license.

The plaintiff in the case involving Egolf is a Texas resident, Harold Meyers, who lives close to Clayton and spends three days a week in New Mexico because of his work, according to court documents. 

According to the Administrative Office of the Courts, more than 420 out-of-state residents have medical marijuana licenses in New Mexico, which they received before the law changed the procedures for getting a license.

Egolf’s letter said if the bill, currently working its way through the Senate, makes its way to the House side, he will let other leading lawmakers in the House assign it to a committee and ensure has plays no role in its fate. 

Senate Bill 139 is still working its way through the Senate side of the Legislature.