The head of New Mexico’s medical marijuana program has quietly resigned, and nobody’s giving a reason.
Dominick Zurlo gave the state notice about two weeks ago that he’s leaving the job, a state Health Department spokeswoman confirmed Thursday, reports Steve Terrell at The New Mexican.
Aimee Barabe said she “couldn’t comment on a personnel matter” and referred all questions to Zurlo, who said he’s working for the state until November 28 and can’t make any comments, referring questions back to Barabe in an endless, circular game of pass the buck.
Zurlo resigned of his own accord, according to Scott Darnell, a spokesman for Governor Susana Martinez.
|Gov. Susana Martinez would like to shut down New Mexico’s medical marijuana program|
Some within the industry speculate that Gov. Martinez’s unfriendly stance towards New Mexico’s medical marijuana law could have been a contributing factor in Zurlo’s departure.
“The Governor’s position on the program is that she has always been concerned about putting state employees in the position of breaking federal law,” Darnell said. “However, her priorities lie with putting New Mexicans back to work and ensuring our kids get a quality education.”
Thanks for the campaign message, there, Darnell; we’ll support Gov. Martinez as soon as both hell and New Mexico freeze over.
Department of Health Secretary Catherine Torres has been told “to simply ensure that the program is administered in accordance with the laws and regulations governing it,” according to Darnell.
Supporters of the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program have worried that it’s been in danger since Gov. Martinez was elected.
Whenever reporters asked the very conservative Martinez about the program during her 2010 gubernatorial campaign, the Republican said she wants to get rid of the program, which was started in 2007 under her Democratic predecessor, Gov. Bill Richardson.
Martinez, so far at least, hasn’t made any open moves to shut down the medical marijuana program since taking office. Before the start of the regular session of the New Mexico Legislature in January, Martinez said eliminating the program would not be a priority during that 60-day session.
A bill to abolish the state’s medical marijuana program was pulled by its sponsor before it even got to a committee hearing.
“I’m not advocating that any medicine be taken away from people who need it,” claimed the sponsor, Rep. Jim Smith (R-Sandia Park), after he pulled the bill.
Almost 4,000 New Mexico residents have been approved for the program. Twenty-five nonprofit cultivators have been licensed by the state to grow and sell marijuana to the patients.