The New Mexico Department of Health will consider upping the cap on the number of cannabis plants dispensaries can grow at one time, according to a press release issued Tuesday.
Officials propose to raise the limit limit to 1,750 plants per dispensary. The current cap is at 2,500 plants, but only as an emergency measure taken up by policymakers in response to a surge of demand and a shortage of cannabis for the state’s (at last count) 73,000 patients. Before the emergency rule, the cap was 450 plants. The increase came about after Ultra Health, the biggest medical cannabis producer in the state, won a lawsuit against the Department of Health.
The department is holding a public hearing on Friday July 12 at 9 am at the Harold Runnels Building (1190 S St. Francis Drive) to get input from the community and medicinal cannabis dispensaries.
“Our focus here is to better provide a medical cannabis system that guarantees safe access for patients to safe medicine,” Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said in the press release. “We want to assure patients have enough medicine both now and in the future as well as in forms that make the most sense for the very conditions they’re treating.”
The potential increase could, if approved, take effect in June of 2021.
Kunkel recently approved a recommendation long advocated by the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, a body formed under the Erin and Lynn Compassionate Use Act passed in 2007, that allows opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition for a medical cannabis card. Experts expect a large increase in cards issued as a result of the new rule.
Jason Barker of advocacy group Safe Access New Mexico says that the approval of autism as a qualifying condition could cause at least as large an increase. He also adds that a new change that allows seedlings, defined as a plant below eight inches in length, to be exempt from the overall plant count of dispensaries could allow them to grow smaller plants and sell them to cardholders, potentially fostering the home grow market.
“That can be good to help the patient community, people with patient production licenses,” Barker tells SFR.
Another proposed change would relax limitations on the credentials held by members of the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, removing requirements for a variety of different healthcare professionals, including a gynecologist, a family practitioner and an oncologist, among others, to only require nine “practitioners” appointed by the Secretary of Health.
“In the coming weeks and months, we will be reaching out to the medical cannabis community to listen and get input on how the program can continue to evolve and improve safe access for patients,” adds Kunkel. “Critical health-related issues like quality testing and labeling need to be addressed in the next set of rules and are crucial to get right. We also will also be evaluating the Medical Cannabis Program’s strategic objectives and looking at any broader structural changes that need to happen.”