SANTA FE: On Friday, New Mexico’s Secretary of Health Retta Ward announced the Martinez Administration’s decision to approve adding Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease to the list of medical conditions for which New Mexicans are allowed to seek medical marijuana. Last fall, the Drug Policy Alliance petitioned the Department of Health (DOH) to add these two neurological conditions in addition to traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Drug Policy Alliance previously petitioned to add Huntington’s disease in 2010, however at that time the petition was denied.
“Friday’s announcement demonstrates the response from the Martinez administration we have been seeking for a long time,” said Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the organization that spearheaded the passage of New Mexico’s medical cannabis law. “It appears the Martinez Administration’s position on medical marijuana is evolving in support of increased access to medical marijuana. However, we will not rest until the Martinez Administration continues to demonstrate, as they did on Friday, that they will not turn their backs on medical marijuana patients.”
During her 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Gov. Susana Martinez (R) vowed to repeal New Mexico’s medical marijuana law.
The inclusion of Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s diseases are consistent with the intent of the Lynn & Erin Compassionate Use Act. Both are chronic and debilitating neurologic diseases that marijuana may play a beneficial role in mitigating.
However, Secretary Ward did not approve traumatic brain injury (TBI). Reverend Gerald White and his wife Judy, whose son has suffered multiple severe traumatic brain injuries are disheartened that TBI was rejected.
“Our son’s neuropsychiatrist, a leading expert in the state, supports recommending medical cannabis as a treatment for him. Health care decisions should be made by doctors and their patients. It’s a shame we are not able to seek the medicine his doctor suggests,” said Judy White, a 25 year veteran advocate who was part of the original Brain Injury Taskforce for New Mexico.
Traumatic brain injury is a frequent combat-related injury that is also commonly seen in other settings of head injury.
“Many veterans are finding it difficult to access effective and safe treatments for their conditions including traumatic brain injury,” said Jessica Gelay, Policy Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance who presented the petitions last November. “Veterans and others suffering from traumatic brain injuries deserve the freedom to choose the medication that works for them.”
The Department of Health also announced a plan to address the supply shortage of medical cannabis. The DOH’s formal announcement to pursue increasing the allowable number of plants and to license more non-profit producers comes several months after the Department’s own survey determined that producers are only able to supply enough medicine to meet 20% of what is needed for the patient base, which now totals more than 10,000 active qualified patients.
The Department’s plan to increase the plant count could potentially double the amount of medicine the current producers are able to provide to their patients. Since increasing the plant count requires a public hearing, the announcement by the DOH does not immediately allow licensed non-profit producers to ramp up production. Once the new rule is instated more medicine should be available within three months.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation’s leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.