Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Governor’s Legalization Work Group Recommendations Will Devastate The States Medical Cannabis Program

For Immediate Release:

Safe Access New Mexico 
Jason Barker
Albuquerque, NM 87109


Governor’s Legalization Work Group Recommendations Will Devastate The States Medical Cannabis Program

Tuesday, October 22nd 2019
Albuquerque -- The Governor’s Legalization Work Group, on October 16 2019, provided Governor Lujan Grisham recommendations for potential recreational cannabis legalization in 2020. The group’s report includes a very serious fatal flaw that will devastate the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program.

The Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommends adopting a totally new model for a joint medical-adult use program, on page 9 of the Working Groups report. No other state has a model like this. And there is a very good reason why no other state has a model like that, as it will ruin any medical cannabis program in any state. Just as Americans For Safe Access Policy Position says, recreational cannabis use and medical cannabis use only have the criminal justice system in common.

Issues such as access, police harassment, and the price and quality of medicine will still be relevant to the patient community despite the adoption of a policy of legalization for recreational use. The federal refusal to recognize the medical efficacy of cannabis causes more harm and difficulty for patients than any failure by local or state governments to adopt policies of legalization of cannabis for recreational use. Any system of regulation should not be built on the backs of current medical cannabis laws. And that is what the Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommends to do in New Mexico. [https://www.safeaccessnow.org/asa_medical_marijuana_policy_position]

A joint medical-adult use program will result in the destruction of the medical cannabis program because it’s regulation and supply chain are not designed for a joint program.

The medical cannabis program has 34 licensed producers and each one is currently allowed to grow up to 1,750 cannabis plants. According to medical cannabis producer Ultra Health, only 12 of the 34 licensed producers have the maximum 1,750 plants. Most other producers have 1,000 plants and some only 500 plants. Combined, the 34 producers in New Mexico paid nearly $4 million for only 40,000 plants.

The Medical Cannabis Program, as of the end of Sept. 2019, has 77,168 active participants. Those 40,000 cannabis plants are not enough to provide adequate supply for the medical cannabis program.

The proposed Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommendation will take all of those same 34 Licensed Medical Cannabis Producers and “Dual License” them as a Recreational Cannabis Producer too.

The Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommendation then takes the same 59,500 cannabis plants (intended by law for the Medical Cannabis Program) for the Recreational Program too.

The Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommendation even dedicates two-thirds of all cannabis stock is for sale to recreational consumers and then says one-third of cannabis stock is reserved for the medical cannabis patients.

So that means: 39,669 (or 2/3) cannabis plants are for recreational sales and 19,839 (or 1/3) cannabis plants are for the Medical Cannabis Program which has 80,000 registered participants. That is clearly not enough for the medical cannabis program. Doing this will kill the current medical cannabis program.

The Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommendation forces all the near 80,000 registered participants in the medical cannabis program to get their medicine from a recreational cannabis dispensary (if ⅔ of a dispensary stock is for recreational sales then it is a recreational dispensary) and even worse, the Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommendation does not provide for any (not even one) safe access points for stand-alone medical cannabis dispensaries serving only medical cannabis patients - thus this would make New Mexico the only state to force medical cannabis patients to get medicine at a recreational cannabis dispensary.

In every other state with a medical cannabis program, after recreational cannabis legalization laws went into effect ALL of those state medical cannabis programs have suffered...recreational cannabis legalization has not benefited any state’s medical cannabis program to date.

Even our neighbor to the north, in Colorado’s medical cannabis program has seen over a 19% decline in participation in recent years. And Oregon had over 400 medical cannabis dispensary locations before legalization there, after legalization passed the state of Oregon has 2 medical cannabis dispensaries currently.

There is no need for the state to hijack and take away the current infrastructure from the current medical cannabis program, by making medical cannabis producers “dual licensed” to be a recreational producer. It needs to be done separately in the bill and the recreational cannabis stores need to be separate from the medical cannabis program.

Remember it took Supreme Court Judge Thomson, when serving on the bench as a District Court Judge to order the Department of Health to raise the Licensed Producers Plant Count because the state has not been able to provide the patients of the medical cannabis program adequate supply of cannabis to use. For several years now the state’s medical cannabis program has failed to provide adequate supply and now state lawmakers want to take away even more of that cannabis supply from the medical program for a recreational law like proposed by the Governor’s Working Group?

Take for example this Missouri Medical Cannabis Report done this year, they recommend that the new Missouri medical cannabis program will need 2,800 flowering cannabis plants per producer to serve and estimated 25,000 patients by 15 - 20 different growers. New Mexico only allows 1,750 cannabis plants per medical cannabis producer.

That example alone shows that the Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommendation for a totally new model for a joint medical-adult use programs will not work due to not having enough “adequate supply” of cannabis plants to grow.

That Missouri report also shows how Mr. Rodriguez, from Ultra Health, is right in doing his lawsuit to help patients about the plant count shortage hurting “adequate supply” for New Mexico. As the change made by NM Health Secretary Kunkel, in changing the plant count in August from 2,500 to 1,750 cannabis plants, does not allow the medical cannabis program to have “adequate supply”as required by law.

This will be the ninth year that New Mexico lawmakers will try to legalize recreational cannabis and every year that has interfered with the medical program law and operation due to the fact of how these attempts at recreational cannabis legislation have taken up a lot more legislative time when compared to any medical cannabis bills filed over the past 8 years. Valuable legislative time wasted during the floor sessions, time in committees and when out of session time spent with interim committees and meetings about recreational cannabis as compared to legislative time spent on the medical cannabis program in the legislature in the last 8 years.

If lawmakers in New Mexico are going to take on the Failed War on Drugs then finish what you started with Medical Cannabis.

Like maybe focus on how the Medical Cannabis in Schools law passed this year is being ignored by the PED and all the Schools keeping kids who are medical cannabis patients from being able to attend their school. [http://www.cannabisnewsjournal.co/2019/09/social-equity-and-new-mexicos-medical.html]

Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis should have been working on the medical cannabis in schools law and policy with APS but choose to lead the Governor’s Legalization Work Group instead of fulfilling his duties as an elected official for the City. There are school children in his district (6) that are impacted by this discrimination those kids are facing from APS. [https://www.abqjournal.com/1364958/aps-medical-pot-directive-parents-must-dose-their-kids.html]

The focus on cannabis policy in 2019 and 2020 should be on the medical cannabis program and protecting the program like Governor Lujan Grisham promised.

The state has three medical cannabis laws and all three are being ignored by Governor Lujan Grisham, the NM Health Department, and the Public Education Department.
1. "Adequate Supply" and "Purpose of the act" in the original The Lynn And Erin Compassionate Use Act.
2. Medical Cannabis in School Law that was improperly enacted by the Public Education Department (SB-204).
3. Issuing medical cannabis cards for those who qualify from Medical Cannabis Changes law (SB-406). And now Patients/Caregivers are reporting a 6-7 week wait for medical cannabis cards (new/renewals) when the state has 35 days or less to provide them (LECUA, 2007).

All that the Governor’s Legalization Working Group had to do was suggest legislation that allowed the current medical cannabis program producers to be licensed as a recreational producer by having them establish a separate retail dispensary business location (it could be right next door to a medical dispensary they own if they want) and then provide them each and additional 1,750 cannabis plants to grow at a separate location or at the same location they currently have.

Any system of regulation should not be built on the backs of current medical cannabis laws and that is exactly what the proposed Cannabis Regulation Act does, it kills the medical cannabis program.

[ About Safe Access New Mexico and Jason Barker: He is an advocate for Safe Access New Mexico, a Chapter of Americans For Safe Access; a freelance writer for Cannabis News Journal; and a medical cannabis patient in New Mexico.

Safe Access New Mexico’s advocacy has resulted in new health conditions added to the medical cannabis program in 2018-2019, 5 of those new health conditions are from the Petitions submitted to the Dept. of Health for Safe Access New Mexico.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (Dec. 2018)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (June 2019
Three Degenerative Neurological Disorders: Friedreich’s Ataxia, Lewy Body Disease, and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (June 2019)

Jason lives in Albuquerque with his dog, Tecumseh, who has a very severe case of canine structural epilepsy. Jason’s work has focused solely on medical cannabis issues, decriminalization of cannabis, hemp policy, and does not work on legalization of cannabis for non-medical purposes or other illicit drug issues.

*Mr. Barker is not paid or employed in the medical cannabis industry nor does he have any financial interest in the medical cannabis industry or in a future recreational cannabis industry.]