Pubdate: Tue, 30 Dec 2014
Source: New Mexican, The (Santa Fe, NM)
Copyright: 2014 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Author: Phaedra Haywood


Latest Public Hearing Draws Smaller Crowd

A public hearing on the revised version of proposed rule changes for 
the state Medical Cannabis Program on Monday drew far fewer people 
than a June hearing on the first version, and it was generally less 

One woman wondered aloud if the hearing was deliberately scheduled 
during the holidays in order to reduce attendance.

The 50 people who spoke had many of the same criticisms of the 
proposed rule changes that were voiced last summer, but several also 
said they were pleased with the revisions.

Speakers said the Department of Health continues to overstep its 
authority by placing burdensome requirements on patients, that the 
proposed changes are arbitrary and that politics play a large part in 
policy-making for the Medical Cannabis Program.

"The department has interjected themselves in a way that the act had 
no intention of," said Santa Fe based physician Dr. William 
Dougherty. "If you want to serve the patients, you better stop 
stepping in to places where you have no business."

Dougherty said requiring people with certain conditions to obtain 
documentation from multiple medical practitioners reduces patient 
access and added that the department is "really overstepping" by 
requiring that patients must have tried all other remedies before 
turning to medicinal cannabis. He also slammed the department for 
placing limits on how much cannabis patients can use in a given time 
period, saying the proposed rule had no scientific basis.

Several speakers pressed the department for more specifics on when it 
would begin issuing new producer licenses to address a shortage of 
legally available marijuana, and they suggested the rule change 
process be separated from the issuing of new licenses.

Medical Cannabis Program manager Ken Groggel said the issue of new 
licenses will not be addressed until the rule change process is complete.

Numerous speakers also expressed concern about a proposed rule that 
would limit the potency of cannabis extracts. In addition, they 
questioned proposed rules that would prohibit cooperation among 
producers, by barring shared employees or management, and among 
patients, by requiring that those with licenses can only produce 
their marijuana where they reside.

The 220 attendees at the meeting also heard stories from people who 
said marijuana had enabled them to get off prescription painkillers 
and return to a quality of life they hadn't enjoyed with other 
treatment. Two people said they had moved to New Mexico partly 
because medical marijuana wasn't legal where they lived.

Lawyers, physicians, veterans, teachers and state Sen. Cisco McSorley 
were among those who spoke in favor of streamlining program 
regulations with patient welfare in mind.

McSorley said New Mexico's program, which has about 13,000 patients 
enrolled, is "statistically failing" and would have more like 60,000 
participants if it were more user friendly.

McSorley said that when the Legislature created the Erin and Lynn 
Compassionate Use Act it anticipated it would be doctors on the 
Medical Cannabis Advisory Board who would devise program policies, 
not administrators.

But that hasn't been the case, according to Dr. Laura Brown, a member 
of the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board who said she is concerned 
about the relationship between the department and the board because 
the department hasn't sent representatives to the board's meetings or 
responded to the board's recommendations on the proposed rules.

Department of Health spokesman Kenny Vigil confirmed Monday that 
former advisory board Chairman Dr. Steve Jenison - who, to the dismay 
of some advocates, was not reappointed when his term ended in 2013 - 
has been appointed to fill a vacant spot on the board.

Vigil said about 830 people have submitted written comments on the 
proposed rule changes - which can be found online at 
- - and written comments will be accepted through Jan. 5. Comments can 
be submitted by mail to Medical Cannabis Program, New Mexico 
Department of Health, 1190 St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, N.M. 87502, 
or by email to Once the comment period ends, hearing officer Susan Hapka will submit 
her report and recommendations to Department Secretary Retta Ward, 
who will decide whether to implement the rule changes or make more revisions.
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