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.
A New Mexico state agency and a medical cannabis company argued in a state district court Monday morning whether the state’s punishment of the company was warranted. Santa Fe District Court Judge David Thompson heard from both the state’s Department of Health (DOH) and a lawyer representing medical cannabis producer New Mexico Top Organics-Ultra Health about whether the company will have to shut down retail operations for five days later this month. The department claims Ultra Health violated the state’s medical cannabis program rules by moving a plant out of their approved growing and retail facilities and into the public. The pending sanction is a result of a cannabis plant Ultra Health used in an exhibit at the New Mexico State Fair last September. The plant Ultra Health brought to the State Fair was non-flowering, meaning it was not mature enough to be used for consumption..
TAOS — Medical cannabis patients, producers and advocates met with a legislative committee Monday afternoon to discuss issues New Mexico’s medical marijuana program. About 50 people gathered in the Taos County Commission Chambers for a Legislative Health & Human Services Committee for an opportunity to hear from New Mexico Department of Health Secretary-Designate Lynn Gallagher regarding patient card wait times, provider plant limits and organizational issues within the department. Gallagher defended the program, which has been under fire for long wait times for medical cannabis cards, and told legislators her department was making progress in improving the medical cannabis program by increasing plant limits and how much marijuana patients can possess. “We’re not perfect but we are moving in a forward, positive direction,” Gallagher told lawmakers. The entire committee meeting lasted more than five hours and only covered medical marijuana, but in the last hour, lawmakers asked pointed questions about the program and Gallagher’s plans for the future.
Jason Barker has been a medical cannabis patient in New Mexico for the past year and a half. His qualifications for the state program amount to his complex posttraumatic stress disorder diagnoses, a condition he said developed after being molested as a child, dealing with physical abuse as an adult and working as an EMT in South Carolina. When his PTSD symptoms get bad, Barker said he usually avoids the outside world “because things become that hard to deal with.”
Related: DOH gets warned about medical marijuana delays
This happened earlier this year when the state Department of Health, which administers the program, delayed Barker’s renewal in the program for 58 days total and 28 days after its expiration. State law requires each medical cannabis patient renew their cards every year, though that waiting period is supposed to last one month at most. The waiting time made Barker unable to legally purchase cannabis, putting him in what he called “a legal grey area.”
During the time Barker didn’t have access to cannabis, his PTSD symptoms kicked back into gear.
A Santa Fe district court judge struck down a state rule that required medical patients to exhaust “standard treatments” before entering the Medical Cannabis Program. The case that Judge David Thomson ruled on earlier this week involved the state Department of Health’s rejection of a post-traumatic stress disorder patient’s application to the Medical Cannabis Program based on the fact that the patient’s doctor, Carola Kieve, didn’t submit enough medical records with the application and didn’t exhaust other medical treatments first. Kieve filed the lawsuit more than a year ago. She also charged that Dr. Stan Rosenberg, director of the health department’s Medical Cannabis Program, had a conflict of interest because of his role heading Albuquerque Integrative Medicine. There, Rosenberg refers his own patients to the medical marijuana program.
Following his testimony at the Roundhouse this afternoon in support of a proposal to increase the widespread use of heart defibrillator devices, New Mexico Political Report caught up with Dr. Barry Ramo to get his take on the measles outbreak still spreading across several states. Utah, Arizona and Colorado have all seen cases of the disease, and while an isolated case in New Mexico in December was unrelated to the current outbreak, state health officials are on high alert. Santa Fe Public Schools announced last week that students whose vaccines aren’t up-to-date and who lack a legitimate state exemption won’t be allowed to attend classes. Ramo didn’t mince words in his criticism of folks who refuse to immunize their children, adding that unvaccinated kids aren’t the only ones at risk for highly contagious (and often fatal) diseases like measles—so are others with compromised immune systems.
New Mexico has seen a rise since 2012 in the number of children receiving Department of Health exemptions from vaccines for religious or medical reasons. According to the state’s application, exemptions require written certification from a doctor “stating that the physical condition of the child is such that immunization would seriously endanger the life or health of the child.” Religious exemptions for minors, on the other hand, require a signed and notarized affidavit from either a church leader or the child’s legal guardian affirming that vaccination conflicts with their religious beliefs.