Open Letter to the New Mexico State Department of Health.
The State’s Legislative Health & Human Services Committee held a meeting on Thursday, August 4th 2016 the Roundhouse, to address these ongoing delays with the registry identification cards for medical cannabis patients. Absent from this meeting, with no notice was DoH Secretary Lynn Gallagher and Program Official Andrea Sundberg.
Dear Secretary Gallagher,
Why were you not in attendance at the Roundhouse for the Legislative Health & Human Services Committee meeting on Thursday, August 4th 2016?
As requested by the esteemed Chair and members of the committee.
Why was Andrea Sundberg, Medical Cannabis Program official not at this meeting to answer for the law the Department of Health are currently in violation of for the last 7 months?
Why were Licensed Non-Profit Producers who have run into delays in receiving their producer medical cards given an extension ?
Why was this not done for all of the patient's in the medical cannabis program ? And that was offered up as a solution to the Department of Health on June 21st 2016 by the LECUA Patient’s Coalition Of New Mexico, and yet this was ignored too.
The New Mexico Department of Health’s medical cannabis program backlog enters month seven. To clarify that is seven months continuous that the state Department of Health has been in violation of state law.
Not to mention how disrespectful to not show up; Representative Deborah A. Armstrong is a member of Legislative Health & Human Services Committee, whose daughter's name is part of this law that the Department of Health in serious violation of. To disrespect her, her daughter’s name, all the committee members, and every patient in the medical cannabis community - all while failing to be compliant with the law...
As highlighted by the Governor’s Office; two of the four priorities of Ensuring Transparency and Ethics in Government, and Keeping New Mexicans Safe are currently being disrupted by the New Mexico State Department of Health. The Medical Cannabis Program administrative delays continue to disrupt safe access to medicine and this is hurting hundreds of people with serious health conditions.
In a letter to Department of Health Secretary-designate Lynn Gallagher sent June 20th 2016. State Auditor Tim Keller wrote that his office will audit the department’s compliance with the legally-required 30-day waiting period for processing applications of new and returning medical cannabis patients. Patients, like myself, are all required to renew their cards every year. A “further failure to comply” with the time period from the department could result in special audits, risk advisory designations and even referral to law enforcement, State Auditor Keller warned.
The Medical Cannabis Program (MCP) was created under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act. The purpose of this Act is to allow the beneficial use of medical cannabis in a regulated system for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments. State law requires patients be registered within 30 days by the Medical Cannabis Program Office after applying or renewing, the department is taking between 60 and 70 days to complete this process.
It was clear in late January of 2016 that New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program was going to be dealing with long delays in the processing of renewal and new medical cannabis applications. No warning was ever provided to medical cannabis patients, doctors, or licensed non profit producers- of even a possibility of any delays. As of July 29th 2016, Andrea Sundberg said medical cannabis cards are now being processed in 45-50 days.
People in the medical cannabis community with debilitating medical conditions like; Cancer, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Post‐Traumatic Stress Disorder and the many other qualifying conditions have had their Safe Access to medical cannabis complete disrupted and left without medicine for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments. This matter is now a serious legal liability for the state of New Mexico and its Department of Health.
Not one official from the Department of Health Secretary Gallagher’s Office, New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program Office or one doctor who sits on the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board took the time to even consider to think of providing a contingency plan. That would have protected all of these medical cannabis patients. Upheld the legal scope and spirit of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act. Or even attempted to resolve this safe access issue by providing a contingency plan now.
The New Mexico Department of Health New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program needs to be held accountable for not following state law and needs to provide these suffering people in our medical cannabis community with immediate safe access to medicine by granting extensions now!
They need to provide relief and allow safe access for these medical patients and very feasible for the Department of Health Medical Cannabis Program to please immediately issue a retroactive 90 day extension to all expiration dates & expired medical cannabis patients ID Cards into the remainder of the 2016 until there are no more administrative delays.
Patients, like myself, are also required to renew their cards every year despite all of us patients having serious medical conditions that will never go away. Nor do we need a yearly reminder of our health problems...once a patient is accepted into the program the registry and identification cards should be set at a 3 or 5 yr renewal basis. The Department can then do yearly address verification by mail all while maintaining safe access to medical cannabis. The qualifying health conditions for the program are all ones that modern pharmaceutical pills failed to cure or provide relief. That is, why we are in the medical cannabis program as this form of medicine provides us the best option for improving our health.
Lastly, it’s important for all people within OUR medical cannabis community to know THEY are the power; the government, legislators & policy makers are lead to us and WE have the power to change the laws and government - people in it, policy being written, and overturning rules & regulations that disrupt safe access to our medicine. Not one state’s medical cannabis law is perfect, they are working pieces of democracy and this is where WE can establish patient lead policy in New Mexico. We have the science, the research, the knowledge - the information the policy makers don’t have and we need to get it in front of legislators. These patients' needs and experiences regarding medical cannabis must be represented and fully considered by those we vote and elect into office as they make decisions on medical cannabis.
“The best advocate is an informed advocate. The history of medical cannabis advocacy is a rich one, filled with brave individuals like you. The key to being an effective advocate is a firm understanding of our history, the political landscape in which you are operating, the rules of engagement and the ability to articulate your needs.” - Americans For Safe Access
Department of Health: Secretary’s Office 505-827-2613 - Phone
-Medical Cannabis Program: Andrea Sundberg 505-827-2321 - Phone
Governor of New Mexico’s Office: 505-476-2200 (Constituent Services Representative)
Attorney General Of New Mexico: Toll Free: 1-866-627-3249 Phone: (505) 827-6000
-Constituent Affairs: email@example.com
New Mexico Office of State Auditor: Phone: (505) 476-3800
-General Email Correspondence: Justine.Freeman@osa.state.nm.us
New Mexico State Legislators: House of Representatives 505-986-4751 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Senate 505-986-4714 / email@example.com
Senate 505-986-4714 / firstname.lastname@example.org
By LECUA Patient’s Coalition Of New Mexico
Jason Barker - Organizer, Activist, & Medical Cannabis Patient