New Mexico expands list of maladies treatable with medical cannabis

Patient enrollment expected to exceed 80,000 by end of 2019

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 6/10/19

New Mexicans suffering from Alzheimer's disease, opioid use disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder and three other qualifying conditions approved this month by the state may now turn to medical cannabis …

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New Mexico expands list of maladies treatable with medical cannabis

Patient enrollment expected to exceed 80,000 by end of 2019

Posted

New Mexicans suffering from Alzheimer's disease, opioid use disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder and three other qualifying conditions approved this month by the state may now turn to medical cannabis as a new form of treatment.

The New Mexico Department of Health on Thursday (June 6) also added Friedreich’s Ataxia, Lewy Body Disease and Spinal Muscular Atrophy to a growing list of medical conditions that were broadened under Senate Bill 406, which Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law this year.

“We need to explore and pursue every available means of responding to the health and wellness needs of our neighbors here in New Mexico,” Grisham said in a New Mexico Department of Health press release. “Compassion must guide our decision-making. Today marks an important and long-overdue step forward after too many years of status quo.”

The medical conditions added this month mark the first expansion to the list in six years, bringing the total list of qualifying conditions to 28, according to a press release from Ultra Health, the largest producer and seller of medical marijuana in New Mexico.

While cannabis has not yet been the subject of rigorous clinical testing to determine long-term effects, preliminary studies have shown the plant can reduce nausea, dull chronic pain and increase appetite.

As of May 31, a total of 73,350 patients were enrolled in New Mexico's medical cannabis program, a 37 percent increase since 2018. After this month's expansion, estimates indicate enrollment will likely surpass 80 thousand patients by year's end.

New Mexicans who have been diagnosed with opioid use disorder and Alzheimer's disease are expected to comprise a significant portion of new patients.

Recent NMDOH studies have shown that 63 percent of state residents know someone who has been impacted by the opioid epidemic. According to the Alzheimer's Association, roughly 41 thousand residents suffer from the degenerative brain condition.

But while the state's medical cannabis program is expanding, the supply of state grown cannabis to support an expanding number of patients has also been a subject of concern.

To address a "historically inadequate supply of medical cannabis statewide," NMDOH implemented a temporary emergency rule in March that increased the limit of plants grown by state cannabis farmers to 2,500.

While 10 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing both medical- and recreational-marijuana use for state residents, similar legislation failed to make it through to signing in the New Mexico State Legislature this year.

Taos currently has two medical marijuana dispensaries: Southwest Wellness, located at 1023 Salazar Road, and New MexiCann, located at 1033 Paseo del Pueblo Sur.

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