December 4, 2015

Public will get a chance to weigh in on medical marijuana changes

Medical marijuana prescription

The New Mexico Department of Health released a list of proposed rule changes regarding medical marijuana licensing and production on Thursday.

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If approved by department secretary Retta Ward, the new rules would require more information from cannabis producers, change certain testing requirements and allow more flexibility to doctors when prescribing medical cannabis.

The changes will be presented to the advisory board next month where members of the public will have their chance to voice concerns.

One stakeholder said he will be there to ask for more clarification, specifically from the producer standpoint.

Willie Ford, executive director of Reynold Greenleaf & Associates, told NM Political Report that he was “pleasantly surprised” at the action by the department but that there needs to be more discussion.

Ford said most of the rule changes seem to be aimed at cleaning up rules and regulations surrounding the industry but that often rules are put in place without enough consideration.

“Any time you have bureaucracies putting rules in place you risk having rules that don’t make sense,” Ford said.

For example, Ford said, one of the new rules would require explicit labeling of any pesticides used in the growing plants, but doesn’t specify what a pesticide is. Another rule would remove the requirement to test plants for heavy metals. Ford said naturally occurring substances such as arsenic are almost impossible to completely remove, and would hinder production for everyone. He said that requirement “would have made everyone fail.” Arsenic in water in New Mexico is a well-known reality.

The rule change that could receive the most attention would require the public release of producer names. Ford said similar to the other changes, the state has good intentions but needs more specificity.

“There is information that should be redacted and protected,” Ford said of things like background checks and driver’s license numbers.

Ford said the change he is most happy with is one that defines what a “batch” of product is. The rule would limit a “batch” to five pounds.

The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board is scheduled to hold a public meeting regarding the rule changes on January 6, 2016.