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Editorial: Medical pot program can’t flourish in dark

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The state Department of Health has a supply-and-demand problem. Specifically, how to supply enough medical-grade pot to meet the demands of the state’s truly ill and suffering patients who are authorized to use medical marijuana under the state-administered program.

While the state has increased the number of conditions (17 including PTSD and chronic pain, with three more proposed) and thus the number of patients who qualify for treatment with medical marijuana (10,289 as of Oct. 31), it has not increased the number of licensed providers (23, down from 25) or plants they can cultivate (still 150).

According to a new Department of Health survey of pot producers and patients, suppliers are turning away thousands of patients and rationing their buds, and patients are being forced to buy their pot on the street.

And that’s where “the quality is usually better, and it’s cheaper. That’s not right,” one survey respondent said.

He or she is absolutely right.

Medical cannabis program coordinator Andrea Sundberg says of the survey that DOH is “taking it seriously. … We’re analyzing it to determine what the next best steps are going to be.”

New Mexico does not need to go down the high-on-life roads of California and Colorado, with magic brownie shops on every corner catering to folks with ennui. But the fact that the majority of the prescriptions written here are for difficult-to-pinpoint diagnoses such as PTSD and chronic pain should raise more than eyebrows.

So should DOH’s continued secrecy around providers, which encourages the gouging one respondent cited, “an ounce of regular cannabis on streets goes for $60 … medical costs $265 an ounce. Which would you buy?”

For the state’s 5-year-old program to truly serve lawmakers’ intention – relieving the nausea and pain suffered by New Mexicans with specific chronic and terminal illnesses – it is vital the Health Department do its analysis and any actions in the sunlight.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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