Relief for MedPot Patients

Health department and law enforcement say expired cards will get grace period to account for delayed processing

(Anson Stevens-Bollen)

A break is coming for medical cannabis patients who've have had a hard time getting their expired program cards renewed by the New Mexico Health Department.

On Friday, Health Secretary-Designate Lynn Gallagher informed licensed producers the department is extending its enrollment periods by 60 days.

That means growers will be allowed to sell medication to cardholders whose cards expire between June 15, 2016 and December 31, 2016 while program staff catches up on paperwork for thousands of renewals.

Producers have been prohibited from providing medication to any patient whose cards are expired by even one day.

Mikey B Innis, a patient in Albuquerque and industry consultant in New Mexico, Arizona, and Oregon, tells SFR he doesn't think the delays should ever have gotten to this point.

"For the people who treat this as medication, it's kind of a slap in the face that they were forced back to the street to get unknown and untested pot while they waited for their cards to be renewed. They just don't know what they're getting. It's not right," he says.

Gallagher's announcement comes ahead of an interim legislative meeting in Taos on Monday where lawmakers are expected to ask tough questions about cannabis program registration delays and a glitchy software program the department purchased from BioTrackTHC, a contract vendor, to manage patient and producer data.

State law requires the department to process patient applications and renewals in 30-days, but it has been taking up to three months. Gallagher claims the numbers are improving.

"The department is taking about 42 days to process applications, which is only about one week beyond the normal 35 days to process patient applications. However, the department is implementing this temporary change in an abundance of caution, to ensure that patients' enrollments in the Program do not lapse while applications are being processed," reads Gallagher's letter.

To ensure no patients are needlessly arrested while they wait for their paperwork to be approved, Gallagher says her department has alerted law enforcement agencies to the temporary extension.

Gallagher also encouraged producers to help patients complete their paperwork in their dispensaries. (Read Gallagher's memo here.)

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