The Governor’s Legalization Work Group’s report includes a very serious fatal flaw that will devastate New Mexico’s medical cannabis program. The group recommends adopting a new model for a joint medical-adult use program, and its report says no other state has a model like this.
And there is a very good reason why no other state has that model, as it will ruin any medical cannabis program in any state because it is a system of regulation built on the backs of current medical cannabis laws. Cannabis policy experts from Americans For Safe Access have noted that recreational cannabis use and medical cannabis use only have the criminal justice system in common.
A joint medical-adult use program will result in the destruction of the medical cannabis program because its 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 September 2019, had 77,168 active participants. Those 40,000 cannabis plants are not enough to provide adequate supply for the medical cannabis program.
The Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommendation will take those same 34 medical cannabis producers and “dual license” them as a recreational cannabis producer. The recommendations then suggest using the same 40,000 cannabis plants intended by law for the medical cannabis program for the recreational program, too.
The work group recommendations forces the nearly 80,000 registered participants in the medical cannabis program to get their medicine from a recreational cannabis dispensary and, even worse, it does not provide for any – not even one – safe-access points for any stand-alone medical cannabis dispensaries serving only medical cannabis patients.
This would make New Mexico the only state to force medical cannabis patients to get medicine at a recreational cannabis dispensary.
In every state with a medical cannabis program, after recreational cannabis legalization laws went into effect, the medical cannabis programs suffered. Recreational cannabis legalization has not benefited any state’s medical cannabis program to date.
There is no need for the state to hijack the current infrastructure from the medical cannabis program for a joint medical-adult use program. It needs to be done separately in legislation, and the recreational cannabis stores need to be separate locations from the medical cannabis dispensaries.
Using the medical cannabis program and its participants in this manner creates social injustices for those medical program participants, something a legalization law should not do.
All the work group had to do was suggest legislation allowing current medical cannabis program producers to be licensed as recreational producers by establishing a separate retail dispensary business location – it could be right next door to a medical dispensary they own if they want. Along with fixing the “adequate supply” issues by increasing the medical program plant count back to 2,500 plants, it could then provide the recreational producer a separate plant count of 2,500 for retail sales.
If lawmakers in New Mexico are going to take on the failed war on drugs, then please finish what you started with medical cannabis. Please focus on how the Medical Cannabis in Schools law passed this year is being ignored by the Public Education Department and all the schools that are keeping kids who are medical cannabis patients from being able to attend their school.
The focus on cannabis policy in 2020 should be on the medical cannabis program and protecting the program like Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham promised.