New Mexico OKs More Plants For Medical Marijuana Producers
The New Mexico Department of Health on Friday announced changes to its medical marijuana regulations, one of which will add to the supply of legally grown marijuana by increasing the number of plants licensed producers can grow from 95 to 150.
Another change will create a permanent revenue stream to allow the program to pay for itself by increasing producer fees.
The new regulations take effect December 30, reports Phaedra Haywood at the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Under the new fees, marijuana producers who have been licensed for less than a year will pay $5,000 annually; those in business for more than a year will pay $10,000; and producers in business for three years or more will be charged an annual fee of $20,000.
The application fee for nonprofits seeking a license to legally grow cannabis for medical purposes will also increase from $100 to $1,000.
The fees are based on what the program requires to become self sufficient, about $700,000 per year, according to health department spokeswoman Deborah Busemeyer. By the third year in business, a nonprofit medical marijuana producer should be grossing about $400,000 a year, according to estimates from producers, according to Busemeyer.
“We think it’s a minimal cost to producers,” Busemeyer said, adding that the $400,000 estimate was based on producers only being allowed to grow 95 plants per year.
The health department will also increase the number of licensed marijuana producers to 25.
Other rule changes will allow nonprofit producers to get plants, seeds and useable cannabis from other producers, making it easier for them to start, and stay, in business.
Busemeyer said some of the new regulations were made in response to feedback the health department got during two public hearings.
Another new rule will allow the department to collect and test samples of marijuana, according to Busemeyer.
There are about 3,000 patients enrolled in New Mexico’s enrolled in the medical marijuana program, a number which continues to increase. About 1,400 patients are licensed to grow their own cannabis, but Busemeyer and Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil both said the state is still getting reports from patients and providers that production is not meeting demand.
The new rules were needed to ensure a more comfortable balance between supply and demand, Vigil said on Friday.
After the new regulations are in effect, Vigil said he expects the growth of New Mexico’s medical marijuana program to stabilize.
“Under the current legislation, I think we’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to accomplish,” Vigial said. “But the public can expect policy surrounding the use of marijuana to continue to evolve.”
Just what the evolution might entail is the big question mark at this point, especially in light of the federal government’s policy prohibiting marijuana for any reason.
One area of particular concern is that five-year federal mandatory minimum prison sentences kick in at the 100-plant level, which will now be exceeded by New Mexico producers licensed by the state to grow 150 plants.
“Given the number of states who now have programs, you would think that the federal policymakers would have to make adjustments,” Vigil said.
“There are also issues around research,” Vigil said. “We badly need scientific research to understand what it is good for and what it is not. So, there is a lot of evolution going to be happening and that’s what people should expect,” Vigil said.
Unfortunately, the federal government isn’t the only peril that might adversely affect the evolution of New Mexico’s medicinal cannabis program. Incoming Governor Susana Martinez has vowed to seek the repeal of the state’s medical marijuana law.
About the author: Steve Elliott, a working journalist since 1982, is editor of Toke of the Town, Village Voice Media’s site of cannabis news, views, rumor and humor. He used to smoke marijuana. He still does, but he used to, too.