March 1, 2019

DOH Sec: Cannabis producers can grow up to 2,500 plants, temporarily

New Mexico medical cannabis producers can have up to 2,500 plants at any given time—for now.

In a late afternoon email, the state’s Medical Cannabis Program informed licensed producers it was enacting an emergency rule and increasing plant limits to five times the original amount.

Read more about this:Despite court order, still no clarity on medical cannabis plant count

The abrupt change comes after months of litigation and a court order for the state to come up with a plant limit  backed by data. The program’s director Kenny Vigil addressed the judge’s decision and said a permanent rule will come within six months.

“This is a temporary regulation that will be in place until DOH promulgates, within 180 days, a formal rule establishing plant count in the state pursuant to the rules of Judge Thomson’s order and commensurate with patient needs and anticipated increases in demand,” Vigil wrote in his email.

In a letter to the state’s Commission of Public Records, Secretary of Public Health Kathyleen Kunkel requested the emergency rule change, saying medical cannabis patients need adequate supply, but also because a Santa Fe judge effectively eliminated the previous plant count on March 1.

“In absence of an emergency rule limiting supply, and until subsequent permanent rules are promulgated and in place, [Licensed Non-Profit Producers] would have unfettered authority to grow and produce cannabis and cannabis-related products,” Kunkel wrote.

Further, Kunkel wrote, the lack of a plant limit could spell trouble with the feds.

“The removal of all limits on cannabis production is likely to attract greater scrutiny from federal law enforcement and would jeopardize the continued operations of the Program,” she wrote.

The change is the result of a lawsuit filed by the cannabis production company New Mexico Top Organics—Ultra Health Inc. along with the mother of a medical cannabis patient. The suit alleged that the state was not allowing the 35 licensed producers to grow enough plants to provide an adequate supply to the almost 67,000 medical cannabis patients in New Mexico.

A judge invalidated the previous plant limit of 450, saying it was not based on any reliable information. He gave the department 120 days to come up with a new number.

Opinions on plants counts differ, but Duke Rodriguez who runs New Mexico Top Organics—Ultra Health Inc. has long advocated for either higher plant limits or no limits at all.