Department of Health Proposes Medical Cannabis Rule Changes Improving Supply and Quality of Medicine

June 11, 2019

SANTA FE, NM- The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) announced details today of proposed rule changes for its Medical Cannabis Program (MCP) that, if adopted, will implement several policy changes, including a new maximum limit of 1,750 plants for licensed non-profit producers (LNPPs) of medical cannabis.
“Our focus here is to better provide a medical cannabis system that guarantees safe access for patients to safe medicine,” said Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel. “We want to assure patients have enough medicine both now and in the future as well as in forms that make the most sense for the very conditions they’re treating. “  

The new plant limit replaces an emergency rule enacted in March that adopted an emergency plant count rule of 2,500 plants for LNPPs while the NMDOH worked to obtain data for a permanent rule.    The proposed provisions would strengthen oversight of licensed cannabis operators and their inventory, as well as assure proper disposal of product where necessary. A formal hearing will be held on July 12 at 9:00 a.m. in the auditorium of the Harold Runnels Building, located at 1190 St. Francis Drive in Santa Fe.   The Department of Health carefully developed the new plant limit to balance concerns about available medical cannabis supply while limiting the risk of the over-production that has disrupted regulated systems in other states. NMDOH this spring commissioned surveys of qualified patients and all current licensed producers to obtain metrics on the current market conditions. In addition to the surveys, data from cannabis producers and national industry averages were also analyzed to determine an appropriate plant limit.   The proposed rule change also allows plant limits to grow with the size of the market through a provision beginning in June of 2021. It will allow licensed producers to request an increase of up to 500 permitted plants if they are nearing their capacity to supply their patients’ demand.
LNPPs will be able exclude cannabis seedlings from their plant limit. A seedling is a young plant that does not have any psychoactive properties yet. This change in policy will allow licensed producers to experiment with cultivating a wider variety of plant strains and is designed to increase the available supply of plants high in alternative cannabinoids like CBD, which is used for serious conditions like epilepsy.
In addition, the MCP is preparing for another round of rulemaking to comply with statutory mandates enacted by the Legislature earlier this year in Senate Bill 406.
“In the coming weeks and months, we will be reaching out to the medical cannabis community to listen and get input on how the program can continue to evolve and improve safe access for patients,” added Secretary Kunkel. “Critical health-related issues like quality testing and labeling need to be addressed in the next set of rules and are crucial to get right. We also will also be evaluating the Medical Cannabis Program’s strategic objectives and looking at any broader structural changes that need to happen.” A copy of the full proposed rule is available here.

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