Sick medical marijuana patients in New Mexico are finding it harder and harder to get access to medical cannabis, according to a newly released information from a survey conducted by the New Mexico Department of Health. Medical marijuana producers have also begun rationing to the patients they do serve.
The Albuquerque Journal, which first received the report after filing a records request with the state, says that some patients have been turning back to non-medical and less-legal cannabis providers.
“I have had to purchase from the street at times, and the quality is usually better, and it’s cheaper,” one unnamed patient is quoted as saying in the report. “That’s not right.”
New Mexico medical marijuana patients sign up through the state with licensed and regulated nonprofit medical marijuana producers. But with a spike in demand and a growth in the program, that supply has run low. At most, the “producer” program has had 25 growers to supply 10,289 patients. Producers are allowed a maximum of 150 plants each.
The report obtained by the Journal estimates a need of about 11,000 pounds annually to sustain the program. Currently producers are struggling to harvest just 2,200 pounds. Twenty producers were surveyed, and nearly half reported running out of product in the last month and turned away about 6,643 patients over the last three months.
But that cannabis is coming at a cost. Patients are reporting being charged $60 an eighth and up to $800 for an ounce. By comparison, ounces of cannabis regularly sell for $125 in neighboring Colorado – where supply isn’t much of an issue.
Among the 10,000+ patients are nearly 4,115 PTSD patients. New Mexico is one of three states to allow medical marijuana recommendations for that condition. According to the Santa Fe Reporter, the majority of those PTSD patients are military veterans.
The state is also considering adding three other conditions to the list of qualifying ailments, which would no doubt increase the demand for cannabis and strain the existing system even further.
“How can we get medicine if more patients apply every day but the amount of medicine stays the same,” one survey participant wrote to the state. “This program has brought me so much, using mind-numbing drugs never worked for me. What do I do when the well dries up?”
Several people have suggested licensing more caregivers to help offset the growing demand. We think giving people the option to grow their own might be a good place to start.