NM Medical Cannabis Inadequate Supply Points to Public Health Crisis

NMDOH data indicates Q4 2018 in-stock cannabis supply at half of reported levels in 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Feb. 19, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Data regarding New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program activity released by the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) indicates the program is experiencing a dangerously-low supply of medical cannabis statewide. The levels of available medicine as of December 31, 2018, have been cut in half compared to stock levels at the end of 2017, while patient enrollment has nearly doubled.

In NMDOH’s 2018 Fourth Quarterly Summary, the total grams in stock at the end of the fourth quarter in 2018 for flower and bud was reported at 1,086,537 grams. Comparatively, the total grams in stock at the end of the fourth quarter in 2017 was reported at 1,717,262 grams.

The number of grams available per patient was 37 grams at the end of 2017, while the grams available for each patient dropped by more than half to 16 grams per patient at the end of 2018. The amount of cannabis available per patient is far below the statutory requirement of adequate supply, which mandates an uninterrupted availability of cannabis for a period of three months.

The supply levels are also a major issue because the program has grown by more than 21,000 patients over the same period with 46,645 patients at the end of 2017 and 67,574 patients at the end of 2018.

As the program continues to garner more enrollees, a shortage of medicine available in the aggregate will further harm patients and force them to enter the black market for their cannabis needs. Patients will also be forced into the black market due to the price of medical cannabis increasing. By forcing patients into the black market, they sacrifice the quality standards provided by licensed producers and may incur significant damages to their health along with criminal prosecution.

Former NMDOH Secretary Lynn Gallagher testified in court that she believed patients were already seeking medicine from the black market. “I think that certain patients like the cost, the quality and the strains that the black -- that the black market may afford them,” Gallagher said during a bench trial in August 2017. Yet, despite acknowledging the black market affords better prices and different products than NMDOH has allowed producers to provide, NMDOH has done nothing to help patients acquire their medicine from regulated sources in the product variety they need at the prices they can afford.

Patients, advocates, and the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board have consistently voiced concerns over a lack of medicine statewide for nearly six years. The public outcry regarding a shortage of medicine was validated by NMDOH’s first and only survey on the Medical Cannabis Program from 2013. The survey found a historical shortage of medical cannabis supply, which has only worsened since the survey was published. Patients and caregivers have continued to publicly communicate the direct and immediate harm the limitation on production and therefore supply levels have on their health and wellbeing, while NMDOH has not addressed these issues via hearings or additional surveys.

On November 1, 2018, Santa Fe District Court Judge David K. Thomson enjoined NMDOH from enforcing the 450 plant count rule, stating the limit was arbitrary, capricious, and impeded the intent of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act. The Judge stayed his ruling for 120 days in order for NMDOH to revise its regulation.

NMDOH has not published any notices, hearings, or surveys regarding any regulatory revision, despite the nearing March 1, 2019, expiration of the stay.

“The treacherously low levels of available medicine for the most vulnerable New Mexicans have triggered an acute access issue which will quickly evolve into a full public health crisis,” said Duke Rodriguez, CEO and President of Ultra Health®. “Routinely, patients turn to cannabis when they have no other option. If providers are prohibited from producing the medicine required to ensure the beneficial use of cannabis, the program is essentially forcing more than 70,000 people to alleviate the symptoms of their debilitating chronic conditions with black market marijuana that may otherwise deteriorate their conditions even further.”

Contact:   Marissa Novel 480-404-6699