October 5, 2015

12 more medical marijuana providers approved, no names released

The New Mexico Department of Health announced on Monday that they were offering licenses to 12 more non-profits to grow medical marijuana.

An Initiative To Legalize Marijuana In California To Appear On Nov. BallotNew Mexico now has 35 licensed medical marijuana providers, though the process is not complete for the approved non-profits.

If you want to know who these non-profits are, you will have to keep waiting, because the department kept the veil of secrecy that surrounds the program up. Open government advocates and journalists have sought more information on the applicants and past approved non-profits to little effect.

DOH did release some information about the non-profits, including which counties the non-profits will operate in. Eight of the non-profits are in Bernalillo County, which contains about one-third of the state’s population with one in each of Chaves County, Santa Fe County, Taos County and Valencia County.

The DOH press release says Secretary of Health Retta Ward reviewed the 17 highest scoring applications. These represented the top-20 percent of all the applications submitted to the department.

From the release:

In making her decision about which applicants to license, Secretary Ward considered the individual and aggregate scores given by the Scoring Committee, as well as the notations made by the Scoring Committee members. She also reviewed and evaluated the content and overall quality of each application, including other factors such as the quality of the applicants’ production plans, with an emphasis on location, safety and security components, the quality of the applicants’ distribution plans, and the products that applicants planned to sell to qualified patients.

It is unknown when the new providers will start operations. The DOH will start setting up required site visits with the chosen applicants.

As for the program’s opacity, the release hinted at a resolution in the future.

Susana Martinez ordered the Department of Health to change the rule keeping the non-profit’s names confidential. This happened back in July, five years into her administration.

DOH said in the release that publication of the proposed rules and public hearing on the rules will take place sometime this fall.

Earlier this year, a journalist for the Santa Fe Reporter was able to find the names of some of the applicants, which remain secret to this day.

One name that was on that list was former Department of Public Safety secretary and former Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White. White had previously lobbied against medical marijuana.

The DOH says there are currently 17,537 patients in the program.