June 13, 2014

State of New Mexico Proposes New Medical Cannabis Program Rules; Hundreds of Medical Cannabis Patients to Turn Out for Hearing

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New Mexico’s widely-supported medical marijuana program is under attack by the Martinez administration.  A public hearing next week seeks input from patients, providers and supporters.  More from the Drug Policy Alliance:

 

Drug Policy Alliance

www.Drugpolicy.org

State of New Mexico Proposes New Medical Cannabis Program Rules; Hundreds of Medical Cannabis Patients to Turn Out for Hearing

Rural Patients and Veterans Concerned They Will Lose Access to Medical Cannabis

Patients and Advocates Tell the Governor Don’t Take Away Our Medicine, Go Back to the Drawing Board

SANTA FE, NM – On Monday, June 16th, the New Mexico Department of Health will hold a hearing on proposed rule changes governing the state’s medical cannabis program. The hearing will be held in the auditorium of the Harold Runnels Building, 1190 St. Francis Dr., Santa Fe, 87502.

In defense of patients’ access, a coalition of patients, advocates and legislators have joined together to call on Gov. Martinez and Sec. Ward to rescind the proposed rules and conduct a formal process of gathering input from stakeholders statewide. More than 10,000 New Mexicans are medical cannabis patients, many are military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain, and they will find it harder, if not impossible to access the medicine they need if these rules are enacted.

WHAT:   Interviews with impacted stakeholders

 

WHEN:Monday, June 16th, 12pm (or immediately following) the hearing

 

WHERE: Harold Runnels Building, 1190 St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, 87502 (Please call Jessica Gelay @ 505-573-4422 to schedule an interview)

 

SPOKESPEOPLE:

·         Patsy Pell, Military Veteran Family Member

·         Mike Pell, Retired Sargent US Army

·         Joel White, Vice President New Mexico Medical Cannabis Patients Alliance

·         Nat Dean, Disability Rights Advocate

·         Robert Pack, South East New Mexico Medical Cannabis Alliance

Advocates and patients are concerned that rule changes: decrease in the number of plants patients are allowed to grow; introduced annual patient fees and background checks; eliminate the requirement for the Program to conduct their annual assessment of services provided to patients; eliminate a primary caregiver’s ability to grow medicine; and, institute an unworkable 24 hour timeframe that would make courier services obsolete for people living in remote areas.

The Don’t Take Away Our Medicine Campaign was first launched in 2012 when a petition was filed with the State to remove PTSD as a qualifying condition.  Subsequently, the Secretary of Health upheld the recommendation by the Medical Cannabis Program’s Medical Advisory Board’s to keep PTSD as a qualifying condition.

In defense of patients’ access, the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Patient’s Alliance, the South East New Mexico Medical Cannabis Alliance, and the Drug Policy Alliance are re-launching the Don’t Take Away Our Medicine campaign to make sure the voices of patients are heard loud and clear. The Campaign is demanding that the Department postpone the hearing, go back to the drawing board, and include stakeholders in their process.

It is already burdensome for veterans to maintain their active patient status. Even veterans who have been deemed permanently disabled by the Veterans Administration are required to reapply annually to the medical cannabis program. Now the agency that runs the program wants to make it more difficult by forcing them to pay a fee to the state every year.

Retired Army Sargent Mike Pell:  “I was honorably discharged and am permanently disabled. I support my family on a fixed income; these new regulations will hurt me and my family. I grow my own medicine because I can’t afford to purchase all the medicine I need from licensed producers, now the department wants to cut in half what I am allowed to grow for myself. The proposed changes are a terrible blow.”

Patsy Pell, daughter of Retired Army Sgt. Mike Pell: “This medicine works for my dad, and these changes would make it too expensive for him to get the medicine he needs. I’m mad that now that my dad found medicine that helps him feel better and lets him participate in activities in my life like other dads, that he would have to go back to taking prescription medicines that don’t work as well because he can’t afford to be part of the medical cannabis program”

South East New Mexico Medical Cannabis Alliance co-founder, Robert Pack: “These new regulations would crush the program, if they are enacted. Many rural patients rely on their ability to grow their own medicine with their personal production licenses. The new regulations force sick patients to pay for annual criminal background checks in order to be allowed to cultivate their own medicine. There is no reason for this, it is terrible that the Martinez Administration thinks so poorly of sick people. These changes are unacceptable from a health department charged with ensuring access to all NM Medical Cannabis Patients”

Joel White, the Vice President of the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Patient’s Alliance: “We will not allow these proposed rules to be railroaded through at the expense of patients in the program. Patients deserve, above all, the freedom to choose the safest and most effective treatment for their debilitating conditions.”

The right to use medical cannabis was approved in 2007 when the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act was signed into law by then Gov. Bill Richardson. Since 2007 patient participation in the program has grown steadily and today more than 10,000 New Mexicans are actively enrolled and able to access safe medicine, often when nothing else works.

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Link to the release: http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2014/06/state-new-mexico-proposes-new-medical-cannabis-program-rules-hundreds-medical-cannabis-

Santa Fe New Mexican

Proposed medical pot program overhaul draws criticism ahead of hearing

By Phaedra Haywood

June 12, 2014

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/health_and_science/proposed-medical-pot-program-overhaul-draws-criticism-ahead-of-hearing/article_d516453c-7bbf-579b-ae83-cecdc742b603.html

As the state Department of Health prepares to hold a public hearing Monday on proposed new rules for New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program, feedback already is pouring in from a variety of sources — much of it criticism.

The Legislative Health and Human Services Committee this week sent a letter to Health Secretary Retta Ward, asking the department to hold off on adopting the proposed rules until the department has gathered more input from stakeholders and consulted its Medical Advisory Board.

The legislative panel also wants the department to wait until the committee has had a chance to hold its own public meeting on the topic in July.

“Our constituents have raised many concerns about these rules,” says the letter, signed by the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee chairman, Rep. James Roger Madelena, D-Jemez Pueblo, and Vice Chairman Gerald Ortiz Y Pino, D-Albuquerque. After hearing the concerns, the letter says, committee members voted unanimously to register written comments opposing the adoption of the proposed rule changes “until the DOH has engaged in further consultation with stakeholders and experts.”

The proposed overhaul of the Medical Cannabis Program’s rules includes changes to almost every aspect of the program, from the numbers of plants a patient can grow — six instead of 12 — to what kind of testing nonprofit producers would be required to perform.

The proposals would increase the number of plants producers grow but also would impose new rules on producers. Some say the new rules would cost so much to implement that they would offset the benefits of higher production and ultimately would increase the costs of legally grown marijuana for the more than 11,200 patients enrolled in the program.

Ortiz Y Pino said Thursday he’s surprised Ward would be supporting the proposed changes.

“This is not going to be a well-run program if they do these things,” Ortiz Y Pino said. “One reason we wrote this letter is, she’s been getting, we think, bad information from some of her underlings. I don’t know who they are or what their motives are, but I don’t believe the secretary would be doing this without being misled, essentially, by her staff.”

Department spokesman Kenny Vigil said Thursday that the committee’s letter is being reviewed by the department.

The New Mexico branch of the Drug Policy Alliance wrote Ward a letter Friday, criticizing proposed revisions it says will “unfairly and illegally place new and crushing burdens on poor families.”

Among the proposed rules criticized by the alliance is one that would make it illegal for parents or caregivers of ailing minors to grow the medicinal herb for children, forcing them to buy from producers. The proposed change, the alliance argues, “would undermine the health and well-being of the low-income and rural families across the state.”

The alliance also says the proposed new rules would “establish new and serious disciplinary actions that rest on vague and ill-defined violations” and “remove essential departmental oversight and program transparency.”

Len Goodman, founder of New MexiCann Natural Medicine, one of the first and largest of the licensed nonprofit producers in the state, said the proposed change that concerns him most is one that would change the definition of “adequate supply.”

Goodman said one of the main purposes of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, which created the state’s Medical Cannabis Program, was to allow patients to possess an adequate supply of medicine — defined only in terms of quantity — without fear of legal prosecution. The new rules would define “adequate supply” as cannabis that was “derived solely” from state-licensed producers,” something Goodman says would punish those who buy cannabis from other sources, due to price or access obstacles.

“It won’t change what people do,” he said. “It just removes their legal protection and puts them at risk.”

Vigil said Thursday that the department had received about 250 written comments on the new regulations.

T.J. Scott, president of the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Patient’s Alliance, said he expects about 1,000 people to attend the hearing set for Monday in Santa Fe. He said he has already purchased 200 Rail Runner Express train tickets to allow people from the Albuquerque area to attend. He said the group will buy tickets for others who show up at the Los Ranchos Rail Runner station for the 6:34 a.m. or 7:36 a.m. trains on Monday.

Contact Phaedra Haywood at 986-3068 or phaywood@sfnewmexican.com