Currently, there are 2,500 licensed patients and 11 certified producers on the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program, yet the program has no allocated budget. The costs of funding come out at around $700,000 to $800,000, which is currently cobbled together from bits and pieces of funding from other programs. In order to sort out this anomaly, the State has a few changes up its collective sleeve, some of which might prove to be a little controversial. Planned changes include:
- An increase in certification cost for medical cannabis producers from $100 to $1,000
- Medical cannabis producers to pay 7% of their annual fee to the State
- Specific auditing and testing powers for the Department of Health
Some of those present at yesterdays well attended public meeting (around 200 people showed up) expressed concern that increased fees for producers would be passed on as increased costs for patients, while others think that the program already has enough red-tape to negotiate and doesn’t need more.
Positive comments included praise for the program, the only program in the country that places full responsibility with the Department of Health. Perhaps, with this accolade in mind, it would have served the Department better had Health Secretary, Alfredo Vigil, burned up at the hearing – especially as the programs plans as they are right now seem to give him sole discretion over certain aspects. In his defense, Vigil told the New Mexican that these negative comments merely proved that the public lacks knowledge on the workings of state government…
Making the point that state cabinet secretaries rarely attend rule-making sessions, he said:
“There is nothing unusual in how this works. As far as I know, there are no areas where sole discretion is being created, only clarified. Whether those words are on the paper or not, I still am the only one with the ultimate discretion.”
New Mexico Cannabis Program Patients’ Thoughts
A number of medical marijuana patients registered with the program said they were unhappy with the amount of cannabis they are allowed to possess, which is set at:
- Six ounces for those who buy from a producer
- four mature plants and a dozen seedlings for those who grow their own
The growing season in New Mexico is short and these limits make it difficult to grow an entire year’s supply. Growing marijuana indoors works out expensive they said, what with the cost of light and heat. Department of Health spokesperson Deborah Busemeyer says staff will consider these concerns when the proposed rule changes are reviewed.
Another concern raised was the need for annual renewal of medical cannabis cards; Busemeyer responded that as the rule had been created by the Legislature, that is where it will have to be reviewed.
Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, who is in favor of the program, wouldn’t make any specific promises but said he will support additional funding for medical marijuana research. He also requested an extended period for public comment. This was granted and The Department will accept petitions up to and including October 10, 2010 in the office of the Medical Cannabis program, Runnels Building Room S-1310, 1190 St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505.
Once the comment period has expired a final draft of the rules will be put before Vigil for approval and, if approved, they could take effect from mid-November.