Denise Womack-Avila

New Mexico MMJ Patients Suffering Through Bureaucratic Delays

Medical cannabis patients in New Mexico are suffering unduly long waiting periods while their medical marijuana patient enrollment applications are processed by the New Mexico Department of Health. And the longer they wait for legal access to their medicine, patients face increasing risks of both legal and health repercussions.

Under state law, the Department of Health is allowed up to 30 days to process a patient’s application for the medical marijuana program. The current wait time for an application is more like 60 days, however, the Drug Policy Alliance reports.

“We are very concerned about the patients who are put at risk for criminal penalties, prosecution, and may be forced into the illicit market to maintain their supply of medicine,” Jessica Gelay, a policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement released Thursday. “While we appreciate that there is a plan in place to deal with the problem in time, we … believe that more could be done to address this serious situation, affecting thousands of patients every month, immediately.”

The Department of Health Medical Cannabis Advisory Board had suggested a “grace period” be provided for patients who are awaiting their application’s approval, but the Secretary of Health turned down such a proposal. A grace period, “is not contemplated in statute, [and] patients who used or accessed cannabis during that period could be exposed to arrest or prosecution,” the Secretary of Health argued.

New Mexico legalized medical cannabis in 2008. There are more than 24,000 patients currently enrolled in the program.

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