N.M. Marijuana Dispensary Drops Cancer Patient For Complaining


Graphic: Reason.com

​A New Mexico medical marijuana patient battling cancer has been dropped by a state-licensed dispensary after he voiced his frustrations with the cannabis provider to the press.

Robert Jones, of Las Vegas, New Mexico, has been a qualified medical marijuana patient since November 2007, just after the state-licensed program began — but he has yet to get his hands on any medical marijuana.
When Jones spoke of his frustrations to the Santa Fe Reporter for a story last August, his licensed grower, Santa Fe Institute of Natural Medicine, terminated Jones’ membership, reports Alexa Schirtzinger.

Photo: Santa Fe Reporter
Cancer patient Robert Jones was denied access to medical marijuana because he complained to the press about his state-licensed dispensary

​Jones didn’t even mention SFINM by name in the article. But he did complain about the unreliable supply (the dispensary actually ran out of pot last year, and was unable to serve patients for months), the rumored high prices — $400 an ounce — and the lack of delivery to Las Vegas.
The cancer patient didn’t learn he’d been unceremoniously dropped by the dispensary until he tried to log on to its website, and was no longer able.
Jones contacted SFINM, and, on Jan. 14, received this email:
“In giving this quote to the press you released information in violation of the agreement you signed where you agreed that you would keep information regarding your membership with SFINM confidential,” “Nancy B” at SFINM wrote.
“For this reason, we are unable to serve you.”
Trouble is, Jones says he never signed a confidentiality agreement. Not only that, but the automatic log-in page for SFINM’s website, which now includes a confidentiality clause, wasn’t always there.
“No matter what I said in the article, there was only one dealer at the time,” Jones said. “The name was well-known; the name was already in the article. All I was talking about was the fact that I couldn’t get any medicine — and I still can’t!”
Jones, frustrated, emailed the New Mexico Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Program. An unsigned DOH response, also on Jan. 14, said that licensed producers have a right to refuse service “as long as this is not used to illegally discriminate” and can enforce their own confidentiality agreements.
DOH hasn’t stepped in, according to spokesman Chris Minnick, because “right now there’s no regulatory role we have in a personal dispute between the licensed nonprofits and the patients.”
Jones says that medical providers shouldn’t have the right to refuse patients.
“The program was designed to serve the needs of the patients,” he said. “The Health Department seems to think their job is to serve the needs of the growers, and to hell with the patients.”
“They don’t seem to think that I have any right to get my medication, and they won’t help me find a grower that will deliver to me,” Jones said. “The whole program is not working.”
“That this program is being run in a cloak-and-dagger fashion seems to belie the whole notion of acceptable, state-run medical enterprise,” said Bernie Ellis, a Tennessee-based epidemiologist and medical marijuana advocate.
Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico, said retributive confidentiality policies could hurt the very patients the Medical Cannabis Program was intended to help.
Szczepanski said it’s important to distinguish between comments that “could jeopardize the program in terms of safety and security” and honest criticism, which should be welcomed, she said, in a new public program.
As recently as December, more than half of New Mexico’s 899 registered medical marijuana patients remained without adequate access to their medicine, Rani Molla wrote in the Santa Fe Reporter.