Albuquerque – The 35 Licensed Non-Profit Producers (LNPPs) licensed a total of 14,550 plants through July 31, 2018, an increase of 750 plants or 5 percent since August 1, 2016, while the program’s enrollment is expected to grow by more than 42,000 patients or 150 percent for the same period.
Currently, less than one third (1⁄3) of a single plant is available for each of the 45,441 enrolled patients in New Mexico, which is lower than the number of available plants per patient in February 2014 when former Health Secretary Retta Ward announced a strategy to alleviate the statewide shortage of medical cannabis.
“We now have a plan to meet current and future patient needs,” Ward said in a statement after the severe shortage of medicine was confirmed by the Medical Cannabis Survey in 2013 commissioned by the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH).
Unfortunately, the NMDOH did not promulgate rules for Ward’s plan to raise the plant count and add 12 new additional Licensed Non-Profit Producers (LNPPs) until October 2015, while patient enrollment had already increased by 65 percent since Ward’s announcement.
The 14,550 plants licensed by LNNPs will be the maximum number the program will be allowed to cultivate until July 31, 2018, when providers are able to relicense again for the 2018-2019 period. Patient enrollment is expected to rise to over 70,000 cardholders during the upcoming license period, an additional increase of 54 percent from the current patient enrollment.
Altogether, 35 providers remitted $2.93 million in licensed plant fees prior to the August 1, 2017 deadline. Providers are also estimated to pay $7.1 million in Gross Receipts Tax for the coming 12 month period, totaling $10 million in fees and taxes.
The NMDOH Medical Cannabis Program’s Fiscal Year 2017 operating budget was $2.8 million, while producers paid $7.5 million in fees and taxes for the same period.
“New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program can easily become a model for other states to emulate. Financially, it remains self-sustaining and does not harm the state budget. Programmatically, there remain tremendous opportunities to improve the safety, affordability and convenience for patients,” said Duke Rodriguez, CEO and President of Ultra Health. “We look forward to working in cooperation with other providers and the NMDOH to rapidly expand and enhance the program wholly for the benefit of the patients we serve.”
Twenty-six providers licensed the maximum of 450 plants, while nine licensed less than the maximum. Seven providers licensed more plants for the 2017-2018 period than the previous year, and three providers licensed less plants.
Six providers, who altogether account for 2,400 or 16 percent of all licensed plants, are currently not serving patients and have not opened a single dispensary according to the most recent August 4, 2017 data from NMDOH.
Ultra Health currently leads all providers with seven dispensary locations in five counties. Twenty-five or 41 percent of all 61 dispensary locations across the state are located in the city of Albuquerque. Thousands of patients are residing in 16 counties without a single medical cannabis dispensary.