Report finds 72 percent growth in New Mexico’s medical cannabis enrollment over two-year period

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

New Mexico’s medical cannabis program, created under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, is not being overshadowed by adult-use cannabis legalization. 

This is according to a new report, which indicates that the Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA)‘s effectuation on June 29 has in no way deterred patients from registering to procure their medicine. 

Based on the CRA, adults aged 21 and over, can now legally possess and use the plant for adult-use purposes. Since the Act went into effect, the State Department of Health (DOH) has processed almost 15,000 applications for medical cannabis patients.

State data shows that there are currently 124,463 patients enrolled in the program, with the most significant level of registration growth occurring within the last two years.

“There have been a lot of questions that we’ve heard about how patient enrollment would actually decrease with the advent of adult-use cannabis,” said Director for New Mexico’s medical cannabis program, Dr. Dominick Zurlo, during a recent discussion with state lawmakers. “However, what we have seen so far is that patient enrollment has continued to steadily increase over the past two years.”

Patient enrollment for medical cannabis in New Mexico inflated by 52,000 between September 2019 and September 2021. This works out at an annual increase of 26,000 people.

“That’s a 72 percent increase in patient enrollment in those two years,” Zurlo expressed.

PTSD is the most common qualifying condition for medical cannabis patients in New Mexico

Patients who wish to enroll for New Mexico’s medical cannabis program must first receive a doctor diagnosis for one of the featured qualifying conditions, which include Alzheimer’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Anorexia/cachexia, Autism spectrum disorder, Cancer, Cervical dystonia and Crohn’s disease. 

Medical cannabis patients tend to emerge from every county of the state, says Zurlo. He went on to say that almost 68,000 patients are registered to obtain medical cannabis specifically for relief from the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Some other prevalent conditions among registered medical cannabis patients in New Mexico are severe chronic pain (38,000 patients) and cancer (6,000+ patients.)

“That leaves just under 13,000 patients enrolled with one of the other 25 qualifying conditions,” Zurlo explained, adding that the rising enrollment figures highlight a growing need for cannabis-based medicines. “This shows that the medical program is serving and continuing to improve access to other patients within New Mexico who can utilize the beneficial effects of cannabis on their qualifying conditions.”

Despite the fact that New Mexico’s recreational cannabis law was effectuated at the end of June, retail sales have yet to begin. The industry’s formation is being dealt with by the state Regulation and Licensing Department, alongside its newly-established Cannabis Control Division. Both branches are currently laying the foundations for the industry by implementing a taxing, licensing and enforcement regulatory framework.

About the Medical Cannabis Program in New Mexico

The steady enrollment figures for New Mexico’s medical cannabis program could be attributed to many things, such as the broad scope of qualifying conditions featured in the state’s eligibility criteria, as well as the program’s reliability and the price. 

Based on the law, a specific amount of medical cannabis in New Mexico is exempt from gross receipts taxes and excise taxes, which means that patients can procure their medicine for a reasonable price. 

According to the deputy superintendent of the Regulation and Licensing Department, John Blair, medical cannabis patients do not endure taxes on their supply. Purchase limits apply for registered medical cannabis patients in New Mexico, however.

For example, there is a 250 gram cap (equivalent to around eight ounces) for all cannabis and cannabis products purchased within a 90-day window. However, it is possible for patients to request a purchase limit increase not exceeding 12 oz. within the same time period.

In regards to the new recreational cannabis law in New Mexico, patients who are already enrolled in the medical cannabis program will have the opportunity to buy up to two oz. of cannabis, 16 oz. of cannabis extract or 800 milligrams of cannabis edibles.

On the other hand, Blair claims that any and all patients who reach the limit and “choose to buy additional cannabis beyond that will be charged tax on that portion of the adult-use cannabis, just not on the adequate supply.”

“Patients should consult with their medical providers regarding the use of medical cannabis while continuing to be in their care to ensure medical cannabis is the appropriate and best course of treatment to help relieve their medical condition,” Blair concluded.