New Mexico fields growing number of medical marijuana cardholders


Correction appended

New Mexicann Natural Medicine, one of two state-licensed nonprofit producers of medical marijuana in Taos, is celebrating its third year of business.

The clientele has grown and changed a lot in that short time, according to Michael Cloutman, assistant manager of the store on Paseo del Pueblo Sur. "We're seeing an increase in clientele and a wider spectrum - from young to very old. At first, it was mostly young people. Now there seems to be more older people, 70s, 80s and 90s."

New Mexicann grows its product in Santa Fe and distributes through its Taos store. Southwest Wellness Center on Salazar Road both grows and sells medical cannabis products in Taos.

The number of Taos County residents who have a medical marijuana card grew in the last five years from 195 cardholders to 1,305, according to New Mexico Department of Health statistics.

The growth mirrors what is happening elsewhere in the state, which now has nearly 48,000 people with medical marijuana cards. Santa Fe County saw a 43 percent jump in medical marijuana cardholders from January 2017 to January 2018; the number now tops 5,245 people.

Cloutman attributes some of the growth in Taos County to younger people going to Colorado, where medical and recreational marijuana is legal, and buying a variety of marijuana products for pain. "It broke the stigma," he said. "The older people saw that it worked."

Taos lacked a marijuana pharmacy for the first six years of the state-administered medical marijuana program. Then NewMexiCann Natural Medicine expanded from Santa Fe into Taos.

Some parts of the state are seeing new dispensaries open. Santa Fe County now has seven medical marijuana dispensaries, including two that opened in December. Two more medical marijuana dispensaries are in the works.

Medical marijuana patients and advocates think the burgeoning dispensary business puts New Mexico one step closer to legalizing marijuana for recreational use. People polled in the state consistently have strongly supported legalizing marijuana.

A total of 29 states have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana.

State statistics show the two biggest conditions for which people seek relief using medical marijuana is for post-traumatic stress disorder and severe chronic pain. Cloutman said that's true of the clients that come to the Taos NewMexiCann dispensary as well. "But now with the older age group, the conditions have really expanded," he said.

More people with medical marijuana cards also are seeking relief from the symptoms of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, he said.

Under New Mexico's Medical Cannabis Program, patients must meet at least one of 21 qualifying conditions to obtain a medical marijuana card.

Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Daniel Chacon contributed to this story.

Correction: The original version of this story said New MexiCann was the only state licensed nonprofit producer and distrubutor of medical marijuana in Taos. The most recent state Department of Health list of licensed Taos producers includes NewMexiCann and Southwest Wellness Center. The list does not distinguish between production and sells for state licensing purposes.


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