Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Mexico Approves Five Medical Marijuana Growers

New Mexico approves 5 medical marijuana producers (5:06 a.m.)

By Diana Washington Valdez / For the Sun-News
Posted: 11/10/2009 05:05:45 AM MST

The New Mexico Department of Health has approved five producers that can
produce and dispense medical marijuana for pre-approved patients,
officials said Monday.

The health department approved the first producer earlier this year,
which began dispensing cannabis in July, and recently approved four new
applicants. Twenty-one additional producer applications are pending.

Officials are keeping confidential the names and locations of the
licensed producers; they are known only to state regulators and patients
who use them.

"We are the first state to develop this kind of distribution system for
medical cannabis, and we will continue to proceed carefully with the
development of the program so we can meet the needs of our patients
while not creating an excess supply," Dr. Alfredo Vigil, the state's
health secretary, said in Santa Fe. "The medical cannabis program is for
people who cannot get relief from their suffering from any other means.
We are very proud of the program's success so far."

Efforts to get similar state legislation passed in Texas have been
unsuccessful so far. During the Texas 81st Legislature, state Rep.
Elliot Naishtat, D-Austin, introduced House Bill 164, which would permit
the use of marijuana for medical purposes in Texas.

The legislation was referred to the Public Health Committee in February,
but did not advance beyond the committee before the session adjourned in
June, according to the state's bill tracking service.

Retired DEA official Phil Jordan, a former director of the El Paso
Intelligence Center, said authorizing the use of medical marijuana is
bad public policy.

"The marijuana available today is much more potent than it was in the
past," Jordan said. "It is a known gateway drug to harder drugs. It
seems like we're throwing in the towel instead of trying to protect the
younger generation from the ill effects of marijuana.

"More to the point, I would not want to have surgery in New Mexico,
where a doctor or a medical assistant under the influence of pot might
operate on me."

Chris Minnick, spokesman for the department, said New Mexico's health
department is not getting involved in determining the quality of the
marijuana its licensed producers offer, or how producers obtain their
supplies, such as seeds and plants.

Patients who receive permission to obtain medical marijuana also can
apply for a license to produce their own cannabis, Minnick said.

The department has approved 809 patients since the program began in
2007; eight of them have since died.

Under the current rules, a nonprofit producer in New Mexico could supply
medical cannabis to as many as 100 patients. Producers are allowed to
have 95 mature plants and seedlings, and maintain an inventory of usable
medical cannabis for patients.

Patients are allowed to possess six ounces of medical cannabis.

For patients to qualify, a doctor must certify that they have one of the
15 conditions or ailments that are debilitating and cannot be helped by
standard treatments.

The qualifying conditions include: severe chronic pain, painful
peripheral neuropathy, intractable nausea/vomiting, severe
anorexia/cachexia, hepatitis C infection currently receiving antiviral
treatment, Crohn's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), cancer, glaucoma, multiple
sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with
intractable spasticity, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, and hospice patients.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at dvaldez@ elpasotimes. com;

http://www.lcsun- news.com/ las_cruces- news/ci_13752065

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