Department of Health Deputy Secretary Brad McGrath recently announced tweaks to the proposal, and advocates say it's a sign that officials are moving in the right direction.
One of the biggest concessions in the revised proposal will allow New Mexico medical cannabis producers to effectively triple their marijuana supply. Producers are currently limited to growing only 150 mature, female cannabis plants, a major reason that advocates cite for the state's ongoing supply shortage to patients. Now, officials say they want to increase that number to 450 cannabis plants—with no distinction between mature and seeding plants.
The state agency proposed changes to the program in May following an internal report released that found the licensed cannabis producers' supply helped only 20 percent of the program's estimated 11,000 patients across the state. The proposal to place new burdens on patients and producers was met with widespread disdain from the public.
Roughly 1,000 people responded in writing to the proposed rule changes, many of them negative.
McGrath announced tweaks to those changes at a Legislative Health and Human Services Committee meeting last week in Taos. He also said the department would be dropping proposed regulations to reduce patients' personal plant growth limit and require them to have criminal background checks when enrolling in the program. Patients will still be allowed to grow four mature plants and 12 total plants.
Len Goodman, executive director of Santa Fe-based medical cannabis producer New MexiCann Natural Medicine, praises the latest plan as a step in the right direction.
"All the changes they proposed are great," Goodman says. "None of them are making things worse."
Under the new rules, yearly producer licensing fees would cost $30,000 for growing up to 150 plants, $60,000 for 300 plants and $90,000 for 450 plants. Officials had originally proposed $20,000 for every 50 mature female plants and $10,000 for every 100 seedlings.
DOH may also drop a proposed 24-hour limit on cannabis deliveries, increasing that timeframe to seven days.
McGrath also proposed to nix new requirements that would force producers to test their product for pesticides and heavy metals. He added that the health department will go forward with plans to add 12 new producers to the state's existing 23 cannabis producers.
Another controversial measure, the introduction of patient registration fees, remains on the table, though DOH is reportedly looking into it after negative feedback.
Department managers will wait to hear feedback on the tweaks before making a potential final change after a yet-to-be-scheduled Medical Cannabis Advisory Board meeting next month. The agency also expects a report from a hearing officer by the end of July. A September public hearing on the rule changes could also be in the works.
Rules won't be final until Health Secretary Retta Ward approves them.