Thursday, February 28, 2019

Changes to Senate Bill 406 Medical Cannabis Changes, Defeats the Purpose of the Legislation. Protecting Medical Cannabis Patients.


On Tuesday February 26, 2019 Senate Bill 406 Medical Cannabis Changes, finally got heard in its first committee (Senate Public Affairs), after being delayed over two weeks. We then in Committee find out how the bill has been changed and amended now several different times and is going to be changed for another time before being heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The three people drafted and worked on the bill are; Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Dept. of Health Cabinet Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel, and Drug Policy Alliance Policy Coordinator Jessica Galey. At the start of the committee hearing, Senator Ortiz y Pino told the other lawmakers how the new Cabinet Secretary had a very active role in shaping the new amended version of Senate Bill 406. 


Senate Bill 406 Medical Cannabis Changes, was the bill in the legislature for 2019 that would have expanded the Medical Cannabis Program (MCP), repaired the Medical Cannabis Program and protected the Medical Cannabis Patients and Program. Now Senate Bill 406, Medical Cannabis Changes, barley changes anything for the benefit of the more than 70,000 New Mexicans in the MCP.

Basically the bill has been gutted; with all the newly proposed health conditions removed, proposed Patient Collectives removed, possession quantities changed, and patient protections diminished.

Here are the the proposed Health Conditions the were removed from the bill and excluded from the amended Senate Public Affairs Committee version of Senate Bill 406 Medical Cannabis Changes.

Health Conditions Removed From SB-406 Medical Cannabis Changes:
The removal of Autism Spectrum Disorders from SB-406 makes no sense at all, as Doctors on New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board have recommended twice now that the Department of Health add it into the Medical Cannabis Program. Autism Spectrum Disorders is a health condition that Safe Access New Mexico has Petitioned the New Mexico Department of Health Medical Cannabis Program first in March of 2017 and then again in April and September 2018 ,after former Secretary Gallagher failed to add it. The newly appointed Cabinet Secretary Kunkel has yet to take action on the September 07, 2018 recommendation by MCAB Doctors to add ASD into the program, as she has final say. Secretary Kunkel was also contact by US Mail, email, and on the phone back in January 2019, asking for her to please take action on the ASD Petition and add it in the program now. Secretary Kunkel has yet to respond, despite multiple attempts of trying to contact her.

Neurodegenerative dementia was also removed from the bill, there are four major types of neurodegenerative dementias-Alzheimer's dementia (AD), vascular dementia (VaD), Lewy body dementia (LBD), and frontotemporal lobar dementia (FTD).  And once more they have removed a health condition that Doctors on New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board have recommended that the Department of Health add into the Medical Cannabis Program. The Petition for Degenerative Neurological Disorders And Neuroprotective Applications submitted by Safe Access New Mexico in 2018, which includes Alzheimer’s Disease, VaD, LBD, and FTD; was approved by MCAB Doctors with a recommendation of adding into the medical cannabis program at the December 2018 meeting. Approval of the Petition for Degenerative Neurological Disorders And Neuroprotective Applications will cover several health conditions and has serious life saving potential.

Substance use disorder was also removed from Senate Bill 406, Medical Cannabis Changes. And once more we have another proposed health condition in Substance Abuse Disorder that has also been supported by and already recommended by Doctors on the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to be added into the program. Substance Abuse Disorder has been Petitioned to be added into the MCP by Safe Access New Mexico in 2017, 2018 and once more now in 2019, with the Secretary of Health continuing to ignore the expertise of Doctors and not adding this in 2017 or 2018. The petition for Substance Abuse Disorder is to Include: Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), Tobacco Use Disorder, Stimulant Use Disorder, Hallucinogen Use Disorder, and Opioid Use Disorder.

The last item removed from what was the newly proposed health conditions in SB-406 was some very crucial language that would have done a great deal for harm reduction in New Mexico and would have empowered Doctors and medical professionals alike.

The language amended out stated that, “any other serious medical condition, medical treatment or disease that a medical practitioner believes would be alleviated by the use of cannabis; or”, meaning that any health condition could have been added with Doctor recommendation - thus truly opening the medical cannabis program to help people.
And guess what? Yes this was also provided to the Department of Health in a Petition from Safe Access New Mexico in March 2017 and in September 2017. The Department of Health refused to provided those petitions to the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board for review, saying it required a statutory change (which is false), and following the second petition, Doctors on the Advisory Board said they would have like to have heard that Petition and would have most likely supported it.


[Had to pause in the writing of this article and jump up to treat my dog, Tecumseh, for a epileptic seizure. This one was very mild and seizure was under two minutes, I was able to pretreat prior to the full seizure with Verdes CBD Tincture, giving 40 mg CBD and 4 mg THC.]



Medical Treatments Removed From SB 406, Medical Cannabis Changes:
From the Definitions portion of the original version of the legislation on page 6;
“M. "financial consideration": (1) means value that is given or received, directly or indirectly, through sales, barter, trade, fees, charges, dues, contributions or donations; and (2) does not mean the value in cannabis produced or cannabis products manufactured by a person under a personal production license;”
What this means is they removed the part of the bill designed to help low income patients living below the federal poverty level. In New Mexico, 19.7% of the state’s population lives below that level and this affects 27% of all kids on our state and 20.4% of all women in New Mexico.

The establishment of Patient Run Collectives, allowing multiple patients to combine efforts for growing medical cannabis plants collective was also removed from SB-406.
Once more we have a new Medical Treatment that Doctors on the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board were provide a Petition from Safe Access New Mexico for adding into the medical cannabis program in March 2017 with every Doctor voting in favor for it and recommended to former Secretary Gallagher to add it into the program. Drug Policy Alliance should have not allowed this to be amended out and worse they did not even allow for a debate on it in the committee hearing. Patient Run Collectives are part of Model Legislation that Americans For Safe Access has much success with in many medical cannabis programs.

By far one of the worst parts of Senate Bill 406 Medical Cannabis Changes is how the bill was amended to prevent the patients from being able to make their own medicine at home without a new license to do so. The SPAC/SB-406 Version now proposes; “provided that a qualified patient or primary caregiver who possesses a personal production license shall not manufacture cannabis products using an oil extractor solvent that is stored under pressure unless the qualified patient or primary caregiver holds a separate license from the department permitting the person to manufacture cannabis products using an oil extractor solvent that is under pressure.” (From Page 11 Line 24 and continues to Page 12 Line 5)

Also amended out and removed, Presumptive Eligibility for new patients. This entire section has been removed from page 19 of the original bill; “D. The department shall presume eligible and issue, within twenty-four hours of receipt of application
completed in accordance with Subsection C of this section and department rules, a registry identification card to any person who applies for a registry identification card. Within thirty days of receipt of an application, the department shall verify the information contained in an application submitted pursuant to Subsection C of this section”.
This was also provided to the Department of Health in a Petition from Safe Access New Mexico in March 2017. The Department of Health refused to provide this petition to the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board for review, saying it required a statutory change (which is false), Doctors on the Advisory Board said they would have like to have heard that Petition and would have most likely supported it as well.

Another crucial section of the bill that was removed and amended out was all of Section 9 from the original bill on page 26 that would have created this:
“SECTION 9. A new section of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act is enacted to read: [NEW MATERIAL] QUALIFIED PATIENT AND PRIMARY CAREGIVER
ADVISORY BOARD CREATED--DUTIES.--
A. The "qualified patient and primary caregiver advisory board" is created to advocate for the affordability and accessibility of cannabis for all New Mexicans with debilitating medical conditions. The advisory board consists of eight members appointed by the secretary of health to reflect geographic, age, gender, racial and ethnic and medical condition diversity among qualified patients and primary caregivers in the state. ”

They actually took out of Senate 406 the one part that actually provided a voice for the medical cannabis patient community at the policy table. The action of allowing this proposed section to be removed and amended out entirely clearly shows that Drug Policy Alliance, Senator Ortiz y Pino, and Cabinet Secretary Kunkel - that they DO NOT have the Patient's best interest in mind when drafting this amended legislation. They are not protecting the patients or the program like the Governor said must be done.
Safe Access New Mexico provided the Department of Health a Petition in March 2017 seeking to do this very concept, for the purpose of empowering the patient community and giving us a voice. 
The Petition: Medical Treatment; Requesting An Increase MCAB Membership (Medical Cannabis Advisory Board Responsibilities And Duties). And once more the Department of Health refused to provide this petition to the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board for review, saying it required a statutory change, Doctors on the Advisory Board said they would have like to have also heard that Petition and would have most likely supported it as well. 

So I then decided to take that Petition and write it into a piece of proposed legislation from Safe Access New Mexico, in Nov./Dec. 2017 for the 2018 30 day legislative session and again during the current 2019 60 day session. In late 2017 and early 2018, this proposed legislation: "A MEMORIAL Creating a Legislative Health and Human Services Interim Committee; Medical Cannabis Subcommittee", was provided by email and in person to Senator Ortiz y Pino, Rep. Deb Armstrong and my Senator, Mark Moores. And then again in 2019 to all those same lawmakers.
In 2018, Drug Policy Alliance and Senator Ortiz y Pino, rolled that proposed bill into what became Senate Memorial 105, creating the Medical Cannabis Task Force. And this looked like it had potential to be a very good thing for the medical cannabis patient community and the program. They conducted several meetings and provided a report with a list of recommendations to improve the medical cannabis program to lawmakers and the DoH only have the very people who conducted that Medical Cannabis Task Force in being Drug Policy Alliance and Senator Ortiz y Pino; to have just ignored all those patient recommendations and have now they have amended them out of Senate Bill 406.

Senate Bill 406 Medical Cannabis Changes does propose for the removal of the potency cap on medical cannabis concentrates, getting rid of the pointless 70% cap. The updated SPAC/SB-406 version, now has this new language added on Page 26 Line 8-10; “provided that the department may by rule adopt requirements for apportionment and packaging of cannabis products." 
What this means is the Department can decide who gets to use cannabis concentrates with no potency cap.



So in review, everything Safe Access New Mexico had successfully Petitioned the MCAB was amended out of the bill, everything that the Doctors have told the Department of Health to do to fix the medical cannabis program was amended out of the bill, and everything the Patients recommended who were on the Drug Policy Alliances’ very own Medical Cannabis Task Force were all amended out of the Senate Bill 406 Medical Cannabis Changes.

The only parts of Senate Bill 406 that were not changed were all the sections that were from a 2017 House Bill that former state Rep. Nate Gentry and former Senator McSorley had done. That bill was House Bill 527, also titled “Medical Cannabis Changes”, and in 2017 that bill passed both Chambers and got to Governor Martinez’s desk only to be vetoed for no cited reason. That 2017 House Bill 527 should have been part of the 2019 “rocket docket” package of bills that are all already now passed in signed into law, but it was exclude for no apparent reason.

All those items were removed by three people, who are not doctors, by three people who are not personally impacted (health wise) by removing those proposed medical conditions and medical treatments, and those three people all did this against the many recommendations made by Doctors on the state's MCAB.

Senate Bill 406, Medical Cannabis Changes, will impact over 70,000 New Mexicans in the state’s medical cannabis program. Those 3 people working on the bill have once more excluded the medical cannabis patient community from the policy table - the group that is affected the most by the legislation.

We also have a newly elected Governor who has made several promises to the medical cannabis patient community and campaigned on the statement that, the state’s medical cannabis program must be protected before she would sign any bill for recreational cannabis legalization.

I’m sure everybody has some questions for those 3 people and here is how you can reach out and advocate; and ask why the voice of the medical cannabis patients community is once more being ignored and ask why all the proposed measure that were in SB-406 that protect and improve the patient's medical cannabis program were amended out?

Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino - (D)
District: 12 County: Bernalillo
Service: Senator since 2005 Occupation: Social Worker
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4482
Capitol Room: 300A
Email: jortizyp@msn.com


New Mexico DPA office
Jessica Gelay, Policy Coordinator at jgelay@drugpolicy.org
Drug Policy Alliance Office Address:
1520 Paseo de Peralta, Suite A
Santa Fe, NM 87505
(505) 983-3277 ph
nm "at" drugpolicy.org

New Mexico Department of Health
Cabinet Secretary
Kathy Kunkel
505-827-2613
Email Address
medical.cannabis@state.nm.us


Contact Governor Lujan Grisham:
https://www.governor.state.nm.us/contact-the-governor/

Send the Governor an Email or drop by in-person and tell her Office the Medical Cannabis Patients and Program are NOT being Protected and lawmakers have yet to do as she said. She said on the campaign trail and in a statement to the Journal, prior to being elected, that any legislation reaching her desk would have to “protect medical cannabis patients”.

The Office of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is located on the 4th floor of the New Mexico State Capitol in Room 400.
Address:
490 Old Santa Fe Trail Room 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Phone: (505) 476-2200



Here is a great example of what New Mexico's neglected Medical Cannabis Program should look like:

Americans For Safe Access Model Legislation
Updated January 2018
https://american-safe-access.s3.amazonaws.com/sos2018/2018_model_legislation.pdf


The Voice of the Medical Cannabis Community was NOT represented at that Legislative Policy Table for 2019. Good legislative and program policy is created when those who are most affected are at that table.

So if you are not talking with you elected officials about medical cannabis, then ask yourself, "Who is?

Please write a email and/or call the three people who drafted and worked on the bill and the Governor’s Office; Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Dept. of Health Cabinet Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel, and Drug Policy Alliance Policy Coordinator Jessica Galey.


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