The New Mexico Department of Health has posted the newest rules of our New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program. The new rules go into effect on February 27, 2015. That’s next week!
In all fairness, the protests ranting and discussions that took place over the last year in DOH public hearings have not fallen on deaf ears. Despite a few crazy rules set forth to prevent us all from becoming criminals, (insert sarcasm here), the NM DOH has helped the program and participants with some very good new rules.
The department has increased the plant counts for producers in order to address serious shortages of cannabis and cannabis products. When the program opened for business in 2010, the LNPPS, (Licensed Non-Profit Producers), were only allowed a plant count of 100 plants. After surveying participating patients in 2013 and discovering that only a fraction of what was needed was being produced, in early 2014 the plant count was increased to 150 plants. It still wasn’t close to being enough, so now with this latest set of rules the LNPPs can have up to 450 plants growing, but at a tremendous cost. LPPNs pay $30,000 annual licensing fees for 150 plants, and up to $90,000 per year for 450 plants. These are by far the highest license to grow costs in the U.S. This new rule should not only help alleviate the short supply of flowers (buds), but may also may help increase availability and variety of the edibles and concentrates that are becoming more and more popular with patients, including me.
Another new rule that will help me big time is that patients qualifying for the program under “Severe Chronic Pain” will no longer need two qualifying signatures. New patient enrollment for this condition will still need the recommendation of either a Pain Specialist or a specialist of their particular ailment, but re-enrollment will only require the recommendation by a Family Practitioner. This is a huge improvement.
Patients may now possess up to 8 ounces of dried usable cannabis per 3 month period. This is up from 6 ounces in the old rules. Additionally, patients in need of a larger quantity may get a recommendation from their doctor to possess up to an additional 4 ounces. This could be very helpful to people making their own concentrates or edibles. I say “could be” if the rules didn’t also mandate that producers cannot lower prices for larger quantities. Once again they are protecting us from becoming criminals by selling our medicine to anyone else.
One of the most long awaited rule changes is mandatory testing of cannabis and cannabis products. Patients have been begging for this since the program started in 2010. Testing for microbial contaminants, mold, pesticides, heavy metals and other toxins is now mandatory, along with cannabinoid content. If you can believe it – we were all expected to just trust that a producer was testing and reporting true and accurate information.
Don’t loose your NMMCP registry card. You will now have to pay $50 for a replacement program card. Personally, I think this is fair. There is no cost to join the program.
If you want to grow your own cannabis and you are a qualified program patient you may grow up to 12 plants, of which only 4 can be mature (flowering) female plants at any given time. You must apply to the NMMCP and be approved to utilize this option, and the cost is only $30 unless you qualify as low-income and then it is free. This plant count is fine for indoor growers, not so fine for people growing once a year outdoors. They tried to reel in that plant count to 6 plants in total, but dropped that after a huge outcry from patients. Thank God. Only 2 patients per household may grow at one location.
A big blow to many self growers in a new requirement that if you don’t own your grow site, you must have written permission from the property owner, ie landlord, to get your permit to grow. Personally I believe this to be a HIPPA violation and the State DOH is opening itself up to lawsuits.
Another blow to patients, but for now, one most patients will learn to live with is a cap of 70% THC in concentrates. This is problematic to me because I make my own medicine using a concentrate called Rick Simpson Oil, and my yield of canna caps will be smaller, making this choice of medicine less affordable than before. The DOH wanted to cap THC at 60%, and since the patients wanted no cap at all they thought they were doing us a favor with conceding to 70%, and allowing us to get a recommendation from a doctor to petition the state for an exemption to use higher THC products.
If you want to read the full rules for the NM Medical Cannabis Program, visit the NM Department of Health website Medical Cannabis Program pages. Here is the link to the program’s general information, with FAQs and the Rules and Regulations.