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)
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.