An independent review of New Mexico's medical marijuana program proposed rule changes is complete and there's not much to it.
Attorney Susan Hapka, who was contracted by the state Department of Health to review input she received from hundreds of patients, producers and program advocates, now recommends the department hold off on changes until its own Medical Cannabis Advisory Board conducts another public meeting and makes recommendations.
Hapka's five-page report—delivered to the health department July 25 and obtained this week by SFR— documents public concerns about the definition of adequate supply, patient registration fees, testing requirements and other proposed changes.
Hapka also indicates that she received a letter from program managers on July 14 that confirms issues Deputy Secretary Brad McGrath addressed with lawmakers at an interim Legislative Health and Human Services Committee meeting in Taos earlier this month.
During that meeting McGrath signaled the department intends to withdraw a proposal to reduce the number of plants patients are allowed to grow and eliminate criminal background check requirements for patients with personal gardens. Hapka's report also confirmed the department intends to combine plant limits for producers.
New heavy metal and pesticide residue testing requirements are also getting a second look by the Department of Health. McGrath has indicated the department intends to reexamine testing standards and implement a staggered implementation of final testing requirements "to ensure sufficient time for approved testing laboratories to become available."
Licensed Santa Fe pot producer Len Goodman tells SFR that Hapka's report affirms his reaction to the original proposals. The founder of New MexiCann Natural Medicine and others have contended the department did not get enough input from industry leaders and patients before posting its new rule proposals.
Goodman fully supports Hapka's recommendation that the department collect more information, including recommendations from its own advisory board, before they promulgate new regulations.
The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board's meeting has been scheduled for 9 am, August 25 at the Harold Runnels Auditorium in Santa Fe.
Once the department makes any changes to its proposed rules, Hapka has recommended yet another public meeting. Secretary Retta Ward has said she'll consider issuing up to a dozen new commercial production licenses after final rules are published.