A bill has been introduced in the U.S. state of New Mexico seeking to expand access to medical cannabis.
Introduced by Gerald Ortiz y Pino, SB406 includes recommendations from task force findings last year (that report can be viewed here). Among its contents, the bill seeks to implement civil protections and protection from discrimination from employment, housing, schooling and medical care.
It would also streamline the state’s patient registry process and enable multi-year registration. Currently patients must renew their registration each year.
Additionally, SB406 would create reciprocity for patients from other parts of the USA and see a patient and caregiver advisory board established; tasked with working with the state and the patient/caregiver community on developing rules for collective cultivation for 2020.
New Mexico’s medical cannabis program is already well utilised – according to the latest available statistics from the state’s Department of Health, there were 67,574 active patients in December 2018 and hundreds of new applications are lodged each day. The program saw particularly rapid growth between January 2017 and March 2018, when patient numbers jumped from 32,175 in January 2017 to 50,954 in March 2018.
The most common conditions patients are using cannabis for is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), followed by severe chronic pain and cancer.
Personal Production Licenses (PPLs) are also available in New Mexico, allowing home cultivation of medical cannabis for personal use. As at December 2018, there were 7,460 active PPLs.
While there are close to two dozen qualifying conditions under the program, the new bill would see more added – autism, substance use disorder and neurodegenerative dementia, which incorporates conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The addition of substance abuse disorder is an important one – according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, there were 349 opioid-related overdose deaths in New Mexico in 2016 and the state has a higher opioid death rate than the national figure.
The Drug Policy Alliance is very supportive of SB406.
“This bill will help protect against the stigma that medical cannabis patients face, and it will expand access to safe and affordable medical cannabis for all New Mexicans,” said Jessica Gelay, the organisation’s New Mexico Policy Manager.