Producers, manufacturers and patients put pressure on New Mexico state department to amend medical cannabis rules

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

The New Mexico Department of Health is experiencing some backlash from petitioners who are unhappy about the recently updated medical cannabis rules.  Ultra Health the largest vertically-integrated medical cannabis provider in the United States kicked things off last month when it filed a petition asking the courts to amend the rules. 

On Tuesday, July 21, another petition bit back at the NM DOH medical cannabis rules. Jason Marks, who formerly served as a PRC commissioner, initiated an objective petition on behalf of clients at one of the state’s two cannabis testing laboratories, Scepter Lab, in addition to medical cannabis producer Vitality Extracts. 

Just two days later, Democratic state senator Jacob Candelaria protested for his client G&G Genetics, which is a medical cannabis producer and manufacturer. Soon after, the original case against the NM DOH medical cannabis rules was strengthened further by Republican Jared Vander Dussen and Blair Dunn, the latter of whom ran for New Mexico attorney general in November 2018.

With big names in the industry fueling the fire that could take the DOH down a peg or two, as well as a list of notable attorneys inclusive of a former congressional candidate, a previous member of the state’s Public Regulation Commission, a pastime attorney general candidate and two active legislators the Department is surely feeling the pressure.

NM DOH medical cannabis rules: Increased testing translates to increased prices

Included in the list of New Mexico’s new medical cannabis rules was a range of procedural testing requirements that could cost producers extra time and money. According to the updated NM DOH medical cannabis rules, naturally-occurring toxic substances and mycotoxins must be tested for before products can be distributed across the market.

However, since heavy metals and other naturally-occurring contaminants are only exposed to the plant matter through tainted soil and water, cannabis producers in New Mexico feel that the final product(s) shouldn’t be tested. Instead, they argue that the water filtration system and soil utilized for cultivation would provide a more accurate overall result; particularly so for large batches.

Furthermore, since the DOH is only capable of detecting approximately a dozen types of pesticides, this puts consumers at risk of consuming products that have been polluted with another type of substance that is not tested for.

It’s not just the inconvenience of testing new Mexico’s medical cannabis products that makes the DOH’s new rules rather unappealing but also, the cost of conducting tests; with an increased sample size, the expense is magnified. It should be noted that the DOH would not compensate for any lost products after conducting random cannabis testing.

Cannabis prices in New Mexico are already slightly higher than in other established markets, like Arizona and Colorado. Combined with the restriction of 1,750 plants for producers and the fact that DOH officials could carry out testing at random is leaving producers confused about their long-term profit potential. 

NM DOH medical cannabis rules would create plant division

As per the NM DOH medical cannabis rules, hemp cannot be cultivated at the same facility inside which cannabis is being cultivated for New Mexico’s patient demographic. This ultimately limits the potential of processors who may be restricted to one type of plant depending on their budget or forced to fork out more money to operate a separate facility.

“Depriving patients of the benefits of a personal production license unless they forego their statutory right to engage in hemp production pursuant to a permit from the Department of Agriculture is not just arbitrary and capricious; it is completely unmoored from logic and fairness,” reads an excerpt from the petition. 

The primary petitioners who first took action to rescind the NM DOH medical cannabis rules, Ultra Health and Pecos Valley Production, recently received approval from First Judicial District Judge Bryan Biedscheid. The DOH now has 30 days to respond. In summary, all petitioners request that a judge invalidates the newly-imposed rules from the Department of Health.