A notice from the New Mexico Department of Health to medical marijuana dispensaries caused discomfort that, for some, not even cannabidiol could relieve.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, a nonpsychoactive derivative of cannabis plants, is sold in New Mexico dispensaries alone or combined with other compounds, including THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
CBD proponents tout its ability - mostly anecdotal - to ease a variety of ailments, from anxiety to cancer. It comes in many forms, from oil to infused chocolates to a variety of foods and beverages.
The Health Department, in a recent notice to dispensaries, warned dispensary owners and managers against selling CBD produced outside of New Mexico or from plants grown outside the state.
"This practice is in violation of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act and must cease," Medical Cannabis Program director Kenny Vigil wrote to dispensaries June 7.
Passed in 2007, the act established the medical marijuana program in New Mexico. It forbids businesses licensed in New Mexico from bringing cannabis or cannabis-derived products into New Mexico. CBD falls into that category, according to the department.
The June scolding was galling to some licensed dispensaries that compete for clients with unlicensed, CBD-only shops.
"It's definitely impacting dispensaries in New Mexico and licensed providers because of other businesses not regulated by the Department of Health that are allowed to sell these products and get them from an out-of-state source," said Marissa Novel, spokeswoman for Ultra Health, a Phoenix-based company with 10 licensed dispensaries in New Mexico.
Ultra Health, which has a dispensary in Santa Fe, pulled some CBD products from its shelves, but the company does produce its own CBD products in-state, she said.
CBD products are widely available at non-licensed shops, including several in Santa Fe, that are outside the Health Department's jurisdiction.
"There exists no law in New Mexico covering CBD-only shops - the non-dispensaries," wrote Health Department spokesman David Morgan last week.
Duke Rodriguez, CEO and president of Ultra Health, said the CBD question in New Mexico is headed for further legal challenges, along with limits on the number of plants licensed growers are permitted and limits on dispensary locations.
At Fruit of the Earth Organics on Early Street in Santa Fe, general manager Elisha Weisman said most of the store's CBD products were pulled after the June 7 letter. What the store hadn't sold previously at a discount or destroyed was moved to the dispensary's sister shop, Fruit of the Earth Natural Health, next door.
"We're not talking about a cannabis-derived product," Weisman said Monday, "we're talking about a hemp product."
The law around CBD can be confusing, but on May 22, the Drug Enforcement Administration clarified its position on the extract. Cannabinoids that come from industrial hemp, the source of most CBD sold in the United States, are lawful, according to a directive posted on the DEA website. Hemp contains less than 0.3 percent THC, which puts it outside the drug agency's list of controlled substances.
This story first published in the Santa Fe New Mexican, a sibling publication of The Taos News.