Proposed rules for medical marijuana providers could open the door to private nonprofit or for-profit producers in New Mexico.
Since the state’s medical marijuana registry was created July 1, patients have had three ways to obtain marijuana: by growing it themselves; by contracting with “designated caregivers,” who grow or otherwise obtain the plant and are each allowed to provide doses of the herb to at most four patients; or by buying it off the street. While street drugs have high, black-market prices, the designated caregivers are not allowed to charge patients any more than the cost of “supplies or utilities associated with the possession of medical use marijuana.”
The proposed rules could open the field of providers to private entities that would establish licit market pricing, raising concerns of a capitalistic free-for-all similar to the market in California, where 300 “pot clubs” offer a marijuana-connoisseur’s delight of exotic varieties, often at prices beyond the means of needy patients. While only nonprofit operations are protected by California law, some clubs are reputed to be making millions.
“California’s gotten really out of control,” said Melissa Milam, coordinator of New Mexico’s medical cannabis program. One bulwark against this distopian future is the much tighter restriction on conditions that can qualify a patient for a medical marijuana card. In California, a doctor can prescribe marijuana for anyone he believes will be helped by it. In New Mexico, only patients suffering pain as a result of one of seven conditions can qualify, short of a special petition to a medical advisory board. The board will look at proposals for additions to the list every six months.