Green Crack, Super Silver Diesel Haze and Snowberry- Just three of the names given to cannabis being legally used in New Mexico to treat anything from cancer to chronic pain to post traumatic stress disorder.
The New Mexico Department of Health is proposing changes to the state’s medicinal marijuana program. Dispensaries are concerned that it will make the medicine even more expensive when some patients already faced shortages and difficulty paying for their medicine.
Mandy Denson is the co-owner of Compassionate Distributors dispensary in Ruidoso.
“We always have to grow indica’s which people like who either are suffering from pain or want some thing to help them sleep or want something to really kick them in the head” she says, “We grow sativas for people who want that happy high”
Denson is a seasoned professional when it come to different strains and types of medical cannabis and the different kinds of relief they can facilitate.
But she wasn’t always, it was until she saw her husband struggle with a work injury that she really the witnessed the medicinal properties of marijuana.
“He shattered both his heals, he worked construction and he was told he would not work again and maybe even not walk again. So they had him on all kinds of pain medication”.
The painkillers he was prescribed made it impossible for him to concentrate and he often felt sick to the stomach and had difficulty sleeping.
“He found that if he was able to smoke he wouldn’t have to rely on the pain medications and so he was able to get completely the pain medications and become his usual self again”.
Denson and her husband weren’t alone. She found that a lot of people in the area, were self medicating with marijuana they were buying off the street.
So in 2011 they decided to open a dispensary in Southeast New Mexico so people could medicate legally and access medicine grown to address their specific health conditions.
“The general response and I see most of it from patients is overwhelmingly positive every time I am down there I just have people thank us for coming down to their area so they don’t have to make such a long drive “.
Three years later Denson says with steep annual state fees in the state and limits on how many marijuana plants they can grow – there is only so much have they have been able to do to provide patients access to the effective medicine.
“Some of the producers were running out or having to limit the amounts that they were selling to patients because they couldn’t grow enough”.
Proposed Changes to the NM medicinal marijuana program could increase the number of plants producers can grow from 150 plants to 450 at a time. Denson says given the number of patients who can’t access to the medicine they’ve being prescribed – there should be no limits.
“We could not only would be able to grow more, but we would be able to do it more economically which means we could lower our prices” she says.
The proposal would triple the annual dispensary fee from $30,000 to $90,000 further increasing the cost dispensaries must pass on to consumers.
And Denson says medicinal marijuana is already so expensive that some patients have to buy it on the black market.
“In the rules and regulations from DOH -is a prohibition against allowing for volume discounts so I can sell you something for $12.50 a gram and if you wanted an ounce of it, it is still going to be priced to you at $12.50 a gram” she says.
Denson says some patients are effectively putting their health in the hands of local drug dealers. They can’t be sure of what they are getting or the effect it will have on their medical condition.
“With the recreational market you have limited availability of the strains that are going to come through the area so one week you may have thing that is very effective for helping you go to sleep because it is more indica dominant the next week you might have some thing come through that is more sativa”.
The department of health is proposing testing to better regulate and homogenize medicinal cannabis patients are using.
And Denson says it that needs to happen.
But with all limitation and fees restricting medicinal marijuana’s growth and supply in the state, most dispensaries won’t be able to pay for testing to continue supplying medical cannabis to those that need it.
“We are still paying off our debt that we incurred to start this operation but once the debt is paid off if we do have a surplus which is a non profit term for a profit- we can pay that out in the form of subsidizing medicine for people that are low income once we reach that point”
Denson says if proposed changes to triple annual dispensary fees go through it would further complicate medicinal access . But she says she will stay in business.