November 10, 2020

Growing Forward: Testing and regulations

An ongoing debate in the medical cannabis community is over how much New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program should be regulated and to what testing standards the state should hold producers. 

This week in Growing Forward, we take a look at the state’s regulations and testing standards. 

The state’s Medical Cannabis Program is solely overseen by the New Mexico Department of Health. Dominick Zurlo, the director of the state’s Medical Cannabis Program, said some other states’ medical cannabis programs are overseen by multiple different agencies. 

“New Mexico is fairly unique in this way that we have an overarching Department of Health that covers the entire state,” Zurlo said. 

Earlier this year, DOH held multiple hearings about a change to testing standards. Many in the medical cannabis industry spoke out against the new proposed standards, arguing that the increased costs associated with testing would be passed along to patients. 

Duke Rodriguez, the president and CEO of cannabis producer Ultra Health, has long argued against standards that he calls arbitrary. Rodriguez told Growing Forward that his company is in favor of high testing standards, but warned that the same standards designed to protect patients can hurt their pocketbooks.  

“We want safe, reliable medicine,” Rodriguez said. “We want it to be protected, we want to be clean, but we also have to do it in a responsible way.”

Ultra Health and a handful of other producers also filed legal action against the state, arguing that the new updated rules are “arbitrary and capricious.”

We also spoke with Ginger Grider and her husband Heath. They are medical cannabis patients in Portales who also run a medical cannabis patient advocacy group. 

Ginger said she “Would absolutely like to see [cannabis] treated like any other crop.”

In other words, she’s far less concerned about legalizing cannabis and creating more laws than she is eliminating any penalties and letting people grow and consume cannabis in the same way as crops like tomatoes. 

Growing Forward is a podcast created in collaboration with NM Political Report and New Mexico PBS, thanks to a grant from the New Mexico Local News Fund. You can find the latest episode, in addition to previous ones, below. Or you can search for Growing Forward wherever you normally find your podcasts. 

There was no episode last week because of the election, but we did record a bonus episode with Andrew Oxford with the Arizona Republic. We spoke to Oxford about the specifics of a voter initiative that passed by nearly 60 percent, making recreational cannabis legal in Arizona. You can also read about what that Arizona proposition might mean for New Mexico