Saturday, July 15, 2017

Patient Run Medical Cannabis Collectives And New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program

To Grow You Need To Know.
LECUAPCofNM Acronym.jpeg

New Mexico’s medical cannabis history started in 1978, after public hearings the legislature enacted H.B. 329, the nation’s first law recognizing the medical value of cannabis. The New Mexico’s medical cannabis program (MCP) is the only program in the U.S. that places sole responsibility for regulation on the state’s Department of Health. Providers must comply with state requirements for patients to be considered for applying to the medical cannabis program. This is also the 10 year Anniversary of the state's growing Medical Cannabis Program.

The New Mexico Medical Cannabis program has grown dramatically from 9,000 patients in 2013 and now the Department of Health estimates approximately 400 to 600 new patients join the program weekly. The tremendous growth of the Medical Cannabis Program with new program participants, an increase of 75% during 2016, so that currently means we have almost 45,000 patients benefiting from medical cannabis. The medical cannabis program office is currently processing applications in a 12-14 day range and recommends submitting renewal and new patient applications a minimum of 60 days prior to expiration to allow ample time for processing. Due to the incredible growth in the medical cannabis program participants, there needs to be a clear increase to the plant count allowed for by the licensed producers from the Department of Health. In order for the Department of Health Medical Cannabis Program to allow for the beneficial treatment with medical cannabis, the Department must properly have “adequate supply”.

There are 35 licensed producers growing medical cannabis in the program, with new dispensary locations opening every month or couple months, and the majority of these dispensaries are located in the Albuquerque area.  Current state law does not limit the number of plants that can be grown by the state’s licensed producers. Each one of the licensed producers is can choose to grow up to 450 medical cannabis plants, the maximum allowed under the Department of Health program rules and regulations. The department may issue two classes of producer licenses; to a qualified patient who holds a valid personal production license and to a non-profit producer who operates a facility.


A Growing Problem, In More Ways Than One, With A Growing Solution.
The number of registered program participants is growing and the number of dispensary storefront locations are growing but the number of medical cannabis plants being grown in the program is not growing enough to meet the current growth rates of the Medical Cannabis Program.  The 2016/17 licensure list for the medical cannabis program shows a total of 13,800 medical cannabis plants licensed by the 35 producers for the All registered program participants in the program. Currently the Department of Health and LNPP’s are in process of doing the 2017/2018 licensure list.

13,800 medical cannabis plants divided by 45,000 registered program participants
Equals 0.31 medical cannabis plants per patient

The Medical Cannabis Program (MCP) should have a Plant Count that is based on ratio of patients to serve, a means to adjust for program growth rate AND inclusion of empirical data for varying amounts of cannabis plant material needed when growing to manufacture different forms of medical cannabis medicine.

We have a sound law in the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, yet we are unable to provide “adequate supply” and it can not be properly defined by the Department due to the vague nature within some areas of the law. Nor can it be defined and properly established by using unknown variables the state has not collected despite the research data being there to collect.  

In order for the Department of Health Medical Cannabis Program to allow for the medical treatment of cannabis, the Department must properly have “adequate supply”.  For the Department to have “adequate supply” they would need to know the different amounts of plant material that goes into all the different types of medicine being produced in the MCP. Dried cannabis flower (bud), pre-rolls, edibles, tinctures, topicals/salves, and concentrated forms of cannabis- all require different amounts of cannabis plant material to produce. This is empirical data that has not been collected, studied or researched within the state’s medical cannabis program by the Department of Health.


Medical Cannabis Research Equals Results When Not Obstructed
Representatives Deborah A. Armstrong and Bill McCamley are sponsoring a Medical Cannabis Research bill, HB 155. A research assessment of physical and pharmacokinetic relationships in cannabis production and consumption in New Mexico hasn't ever been done in relation to Equivalency in Portion and Dosage for the medical cannabis program. HB-155 passed this year in the House of Representatives (Y:41 N:26), only to be left in the Senate Judiciary Committee with no action taken on it when the lawmakers had the time to do so.

Representative Armstrong had also tried getting a medical cannabis research bill passed in 2015. The legislation in 2015 even had six additional legislative sponsors, passed two committees and then was intentionally left to die. Yet we often hear lawmakers in New Mexico say how they need to learn more about cannabis or that there isn’t enough research for this or that; all the while the Roundhouse has now stopped medical cannabis research twice since 2015.  

We need lawmakers in New Mexico’s state legislature to provide the Department of Health’s  Medical Cannabis Program officials access to this invaluable tool of medical cannabis research and enable our state colleges and universities to research this is empirical data. In doing so lawmakers would allow for this to be fulfilled:
“PURPOSE OF ACT.--The purpose of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act is to allow the beneficial use of medical cannabis in a regulated system for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments.”


PPL Plant Increase And Licensed Personal Patient Collectives
The Medical Cannabis Program should have a Plant Count that is based on ratio of patients to serve AND inclusion of empirical data for varying amounts cannabis plant material needed to manufacture different forms of medical cannabis medicine.

A increase for Patient / Caregiver PPL plant count to allow for 6 immature seedlings /clones / cuttings, 6 plants in vegetative stage, and 6 plants in flowering stage for total of 18 medical cannabis plants; along with the establishment of patient run collective PPL’s or “Licensed Personal Patient  Collectives” (LPPC) as these LPPC’s would be and are greatly needed for patients in the underserved rural areas of New Mexico.

A large number of patients or caregivers in the program do have their Personal Production License, mainly to secure the right of having it, as about a ⅓ of these PPL’s are being used. The start up cost for the proper equipment to cultivate medical cannabis is between $1000-$1300.  The addition of patient run cooperative/collective PPL’s or “Licensed Personal Patient  Collectives” (LPPC) and further protections to property owners renting to patients. So patients are not forced into the demeaning situation of telling a landlord of their personal health issues; as it can foster discrimination by a landlord in many other aspects in renting. This would allow for more adequate supply of medical cannabis and empower the patient community.

Licensed Personal Patient Collectives could  allow up to four medical cannabis patients or their designated caregiver to join together to grow medical cannabis for the patients’ personal use.
Every member could be entered into the medical cannabis authorization database and have a medical cannabis recognition card. The total number of plants authorized for the participants may not exceed 80 plants - 20 of which could be CBD only strain variations. Licensed Personal Patient Collectives could follow these suggested regulations.

Licensed Personal Patient  Collectives members may ONLY:

  • Be in a cooperative if they have a valid medical cannabis recognition card.
  • Form a four member cooperative.
  • Participate in a cooperative if they are at least 21 years of age.
  • Grow up to the total number of plants authorized, with a maximum of 80 plants.
  • Belong to only one cooperative.
  • Grow plants in the cooperative and not anywhere else.
  • Use the medical cannabis and its products, and not sell or give away cannabis or cannabis products to anyone who is not in the cooperative.

A cooperative must be:

  • Located at one of the member’s homes, on a member’s personal property or approved rented location.
  • Limited to one cooperative per tax parcel.
  • Enclosed by an 8-foot fence, if outdoors, and cannot easily be seen or smelled.
And then that will bring us to Title 7-Chapter 34-Part 3-Section A: Medical cannabis registry identification cards, where the definitions in Rules and Regulations for “unit” and “useable cannabis” needs to be defined properly & adjusted with a quantity of usable cannabis increased to 425.243 grams per 3 months (2.5 ounces every two weeks). Along with the inclusion of a medical exception that would still allow for the patient or primary caregiver to petition the MCAB for a medical exception increase of units (or grams) with the amount of the medical exception increase to be determined by a patient's medical practitioner.
    1. Plant Count that is based on ratio of patients to serve AND inclusion of empirical data for varying amounts cannabis plant material needed to manufacture different forms of medical cannabis medicine.
      1. Patient / Caregiver PPL plant count increased to allow for 6 immature seedlings /clones / cuttings, 6 plants in vegetative stage, and 6 plants in flowering stage for total of 18 cannabis plants.
      2. The addition of Cooperative/Collective PPL’s
    1. Whereas Rules and Regulations for Personal Production License should additionally include:
      The Department shall issue a individual cultivation registration to a qualifying patient or their personal caregiver. No more than 4 qualified patients may collectively cultivate 80 cannabis plants, and each participating patient must obtain a collective cultivation registration. The Department may deny a registration based on the provision of false information by the applicant. Such registration shall allow the qualifying patient or their personal caregiver to cultivate an area of limited square footage of plant canopy, sufficient to maintain a 90-day supply of cannabis, and shall require cultivation and storage only in a restricted access area.
      A qualifying patient or personal caregiver shall not be considered to be in possession of more than a 90-day supply at the location of a restricted access area used collectively by more than one patient, so long as the total amount of cannabis within the restricted access area is not more than a 90-supply for all the participating qualifying patients. A copy of each qualifying patient’s written recommendation shall be retained at the shared cultivation facility
    2. Qualified patients shall provide the following in order to be considered for a personal production license to produce medical cannabis:
      (1)  a description of the single indoor or outdoor location that shall be used in the production of cannabis;                
      (2)  a written plan that ensures that the cannabis production shall not be visible from the street or other public areas;
    3. (3)  a written acknowledgement that the applicant will ensure that all cannabis, cannabis-derived products and paraphernalia is accessible only by the applicant, collective members and/or their primary caregiver (if any), and kept secure and out of reach of children;
    4. (4)  a description of any device or series of devices that shall be used to provide security and proof of the secure grounds; and
      (5)  a written acknowledgement of the limitations of the right to use and possess cannabis for medical purposes in New Mexico.
    5. ”Cultivation facility” means a business that:
      1. Is registered with the Department of Agriculture; and (we should be having Dept. of Agriculture involved in the MCP)
      2. Acquires, possesses, cultivates, harvests, dries, cures, trims, and packages cannabis and other related supplies for the purpose of delivery, transfer, transport, supply, or sales to:
      (a) dispensing facilities;
      (b) processing facilities;
      (c) manufacturing facilities;
      (d) other cultivation facilities;
      (e) research facilities.
      (f) independent testing laboratories.

The support and approval of this by lawmakers and the Department of Health in providing the proper increase to the “PPL”, “LPPC”, and “useable cannabis” would bring the state’s Department of Health in compliance with the intent of the law and uphold the spirit of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, 2007.

The petition provided to the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Advisory Board at the April 2017 public meeting, that was approved by the MCAB and sent to the Secretary for final decision, can be viewed here:

MCAB Meeting Results Can Be Viewed Here; As These Petitions Reviewed By The MCAB, Isn’t A Medical Cannabis Case…It’s A HealTHCare Case.