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New Mexico Proposes Annual Fee, Higher Application Fee, To Fund Medical Cannabis Prog


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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico is proposing an increase in fees on medical marijuana producers to help fund administration of the state's program.

The New Mexico Department of Health, which operates the program, wants to increase the application fee on would-be producers from the current $100 to $1,000 and establish a new annual fee on the licensed nonprofits that grow medical marijuana.

That fee would be equal to 7 percent of a producer's total annual gross receipts. Preliminary figures estimate each producer could generate $300,000 to $400,000 in gross revenues a year, said Health Department spokeswoman Deborah Busemeyer.

The fees will help the program be financially self-sufficient, Busemeyer said. Up to now, it's been funded from other Health Department programs.

The agency plans a Sept. 30 hearing in Santa Fe on the proposed revisions to the regulations governing the program.

Other proposed changes include testing samples of producers' medical cannabis for contaminants such as mold or bacteria "to make sure we have a safe product for our patients," Busemeyer said.

Another revision would keep confidential the names of medical practitioners who certify patients.

"Some practitioners are reluctant to certify patients' eligibility due to concerns over federal law" under which marijuana remains illegal, Busemeyer said.

Keeping their names confidential would protect "the integrity of the program and the safety and security of those practitioners who refer patients to the program," she said.

New Mexico doctors do not prescribe medical cannabis. Rather, they certify someone has one of 16 approved conditions and standard treatment doesn't work. Patients then apply to the program. Approved patients receive a registry ID card that allows possession of up to six ounces of medical marijuana.

The Health Department spent more than a year crafting regulations for a state-licensed system of nonprofit growers after the state passed its medical marijuana law in 2007. Now, the agency is proposing open and closed enrollment periods for considering new producers.

Busemeyer said nearly 50 applications are pending, and allowing new ones only at certain times would let staff focus on priorities and would speed up the process "so no one is waiting too long to hear back from us."

The Health Department licensed its first grower in March 2009. New Mexico now has 11, including six approved in July.

Prospective growers undergo painstaking screening. Each producer is limited to 95 plants and seedlings and an inventory restricted to current qualified patient needs.

Revisions also would clarify that producers and patients may possess marijuana seeds. Patients licensed to produce for themselves could obtain no more than 16 seeds from a nonprofit producer in a three-month period.

The state has 2,250 active medical cannabis patients – 1,022 who are licensed to grow their own supply.

NewsHawk: MedicalNeed: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: San Francisco Examiner
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Website:New Mexico proposes annual fee, higher application fee, to fund medical cannabis program | San Francisco Examiner
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