Four new producers are expected to supply 100 patients each
After months during which New Mexico’s single non-profit producer of medical marijuana was unable to keep a consistent supply of medical cannabis, Department of Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil announced Monday that the state is licensing an additional four producers, enough, the department hopes, to supply the state’s nearly 800 active medical cannabis patients.
“We are the first state to develop this kind of distribution system for medical cannabis and we will continue to proceed carefully with the development of the program so we can meet the needs of our patients while not creating an excess supply,” Dr. Vigil said in the statement. “Our main goals are to ensure our patients have access to the medicine they need while building a sustainable program for New Mexico . The medical cannabis program is for people who cannot get relief from their suffering from any other means. We are very proud of the program’s success so far.”
These newly approved non-profits have been highly anticipated by patients and advocates. As NMI first reported in August, almost as soon as the Santa Fe Institute of Natural Medicine made its first medical marijuana crop available to patients, the supply ran out. It eventually had to resort to rationing its supply.
In a November 5 note on the producer’s Web site, SFINM said it understood that patients are “suffering from ‘OUT OF STOCK’ syndrome.”
“We realize this makes you irritable and frustrated and in most cases ready to scream because you are once again forced onto the street for your medicine,” the note states. “To better manage the demand, we have implemented a policy limiting orders to 1 oz for Albuquerque and Santa Fe residents and 2 oz’s for our rural patients who travel longer distances. … We do so because we want as many people as possible to have an opportunity to get their medicine.”
The state approved four more producers based on an estimate of one producer for every 100 patients. There are currently 755 patients, 204 of whom are licensed to produce their own medical marijuana, according to the Department of Health.
On November 2, the New Mexico Drug Policy Alliance began circulating via e-mail a letter to Secretary Vigil. The letter urged him to license at least six new non-profits, based on the same 100 patient per non-profit number.
While the approval of new producers will be welcome news for medical marijuana patients, problems remain with the state’s program. Concerns about border security checkpoints make it unlikely that non-profits will deliver the drug to patients if it requires them to travel through the checkpoints, located in the southern part of the state. The department would not say where the new non-profits are located, citing to security concerns.
The cost of delivery has also posed a challenge for the state’s original producer. On its Web site, SFINM states it will only travel outside of the Santa Fe/Albuquerque area if it has a quota of 50 patients to deliver to. Given the rural nature of New Mexico, this means that many patients could be unable to receive deliveries. In its letter to Vigil, the Drug Policy Alliance asked that individual primary caregivers be licensed to produce for patients. Allowing caregivers to grow the drug for patients would help provide access for patients in rural areas of the state, the Alliance said.
There are 15 medical conditions that allow a person to qualify for the program, including cancer, severe chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and post traumatic stress disorder.
By Marjorie Childress
November 9, 2009
New Mexico Independent