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NM medical marijuana program changes come under fire

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A public hearing today on proposed changes to New Mexico’s seven-year old medical marijuana program drew a packed crowd — and plenty of opposition.

Patients, producers and at least one state lawmaker packed a Department of Health auditorium to protest the proposals, which were unveiled earlier this year.

Nearly 100 people, some holding signs, waited outside the auditorium, where a capacity crowd of 240 people listened to testimony.

Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, blasted DOH officials for their handling of the proposed program changes.

“This program is supposed to be about patients,” said McSorley, who sponsored the 2007 legislation that created the state medical cannabis program. “The department is destroying it.”

William Ford, the executive director of an Albuquerque medical marijuana dispensary, said the changes would hurt  patient’s ability to obtain medical pot.

“This is a right, not a privilege, these patients have to access medical cannabis,” Ford said.

Among other things, the proposed changes to the state’s medical pot program would impose a first-ever $50 fee for approved patients to renew their registry ID cards.

They would also increase licensing fees for producers that grow the proposed maximum amount of pot plants — 150 mature plants and 300 seedlings.

Today’s hearing is the only public forum DOH has scheduled on the proposed changes.

It’s unclear when the agency will decide whether to adopt, scrap or tweak the new rules.

Check back later for more updates.

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