New Mexico panel suggests increasing medical cannabis plant count limit

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Wednesday, December 10, an advisory board in New Mexico recommended that lawmakers increase the medical cannabis plant count limit for licensed producers. Following the meeting, which took place online, the state health secretary must now decide whether or not to increase the cultivation limit. 

Board Chairwoman Stephanie Richmond says that the updated cultivation limit for medical cannabis producers has long been necessitated. After all, the board’s recent decision to purchase more weed within a specific window of time must be satisfied with ample supply.

Richmond is also a physician assistant with the University of New Mexico Health System. She noted that medical conditions like substance abuse, attention deficit disorders and anxiety could soon be added to the patient eligibility criteria. Should this happen, more patients would be able to enroll in the state’s thriving program.

Increasing costs and lack of product diversity for patients are two of the driving factors that pushed New Mexico’s medical cannabis plant count bill under the noses of lawmakers. Prior to the discussion, a petition took place that attempted to either completely banish the limit on self cultivation or majorly increase the allowed number of plants per producer.

Changes to New Mexico’s medical cannabis plant count could boost overall demand

It’s probable that changes to New Mexico’s medical cannabis plant count limits will significantly contribute to consumer demand. Well, that is if the state health secretary approves the changes, which have long been considered a roadblock for market growth.

One of the state’s largest cannabis producers, Ultra Health, has frequently argued that the Health Department’s imposed plant count limits are arbitrary. The fact that cultivation capacity is not being met to its full potential means that the cost of this high-demand agricultural commodity is, consequently, being hiked up.

According to the director of the state’s Medical Cannabis Program, Dr. Dominick Zurlo, concerns regarding the price of cannabis in New Mexico are very real. In the past, the advisory board has approved plant increases. Nonetheless, Zurlo explained to reporters that prices remained sky-high.

“At this current time, production is actually outstripping the sales,” he said. “What we as a program and department would really like to see is prices reduced and I think the current production really is showing that those prices could have been reduced.”

Zurlo  went on to say that licensed cannabis producers in New Mexico may be able to increase the existing 1,750 plant limit by 500 in the year 2021. Current regulations allow for the cultivation of 51,000 plants by licensed producers. However, for the quarter that concluded on September 30, licensed producers were sitting on approximately 30,000 plants, demonstrating plenty of untapped potential.

What other decisions did the board make regarding cannabis in New Mexico?

In addition to lifting medical cannabis plant count restrictions, the advisory board also suggested that reciprocity rules be changed. The aim of the rule change would be to grant out-of-state residents access to medical cannabis in New Mexico if they have been authorized to use the plant in a different legal state, but are traveling to/living in the state temporarily.

Board members dismissed a petition that would enable pet owners to use medical cannabis as a seizure treatment for their furry friends. The group affirmed that more research must be carried out into the benefits of cannabis for pets, not to mention for humans, too.

Currently, New Mexico boasts a generous supply of medical cannabis that is large enough to serve the program’s 101,000 enrolled patients.