Now that the state Department of Health says it might consider certifying new medical marijuana producers, aspiring medical marijuana nonprofits are lining up to make the cut.
For years, patients and advocates of the program have bemoaned the lack of cannabis supply available in the state to meet demand of the estimated 10,647 patients active in the program. Last fall, DOH released a survey that found the licensed nonprofit producers were together growing just 20 percent of patient demand.
DOH hasn't certified a new medical cannabis producer since 2010, and the number of patients in the medical cannabis program has tripled since then. But in late February, DOH Secretary Retta Ward said that the department would consider adding 12 new producers to New Mexico's existing 23 producers.
The queue for new producers isn't small, as more than 100 have already been in line, and even sued DOH, for nearly three years now. Among those on the list is Mark Springer, a Santa Fe resident who applied to get his company, Medical Marijuana Inc, licensed in the program five years ago. In February of 2012, then-DOH Secretary Catherine Torres wrote Springer a letter saying that his application qualified for the program but that it wouldn't be considered at the time.
When DOH does consider licensing new producers, the letter read, Springer's would be among the first considered. But Springer, tired of playing the waiting game, took his concerns to court.
Last Friday, Santa Fe District Judge Sarah Singleton agreed to send Ward a writ of mandamus compelling the secretary to "take steps to ensure an adequate supply" of medical cannabis to patients in the program, which is supposed to be enforced under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act that legalized medical marijuana in New Mexico.
If Springer disputes that that DOH still isn't meeting patient demand by September, Ward will then have to prove the contrary in front of court.
"Either we say, 'Yes,
she’s done that, that’s great,' or if we think she hasn’t she'll have to come
back and explain to the judge what she’s done to meet supply," says Springer's attorney Brian Egolf, who's also a state representative.
Egolf adds that he's asked the court to "declare as a matter of law that when the [producer] application process reopens, they do what they said they were going to do previously by basically putting [Springer] in the front of the line as one of the new licensees."