I hate being censored (at The Weed Blog)

From recent post that was sent to the “pending” category because I included links to other cannabis websites in my response:


“…cannabis prices are likely to fall from today’s prohibition-influenced prices of $200-$300 an ounce to as low $5-$18 ounce. Economic modeling… tests a $50 per ounce… price point…”

Patient/consumer costs for cannabis are a serious problem. The legalization movement has come so far, but pricing is going to ruin it for everyone. Yes, taxes and the money the industry can make is going to sell legalization to conservatives, but advocates are beginning to throw patients/consumers under the bus.

Let’s compare the prices in that report to what the market looks like:

From Bloomberg (5/5/2014):

In Colorado, marijuana businesses are so profitable that growers have no problem paying higher-than-average rents, according to [Peter] Adams [executive director of the Rockies Venture Club].

“When I talk to the growers, they are paying $450 to $1,100 a pound [$28 to $68/ounce] to grow the stuff all in, and then they are selling that wholesale for $3,000 to $4,000 a pound [$187 to $250/ounce; $6.67 to $8.92/gram], and retail for $11,000 a pound [$687/ounce; $24.50/gram],” he said.



11/19/2013: Patients [in New Mexico] are reporting being charged $60 an eighth [$17.14/gr] and up to $800 for an ounce [$28.57/gr]. By comparison, ounces of cannabis regularly sell for $125 in neighboring Colorado – where supply isn’t much of an issue.


From R. Greenleaf Newsletter (2/17/2014):

As the Executive Director of a nonprofit producer I know that the cost of producing a gram of medicine is not $12. It’s not $7. It’s far closer to $2-$3.

If the spirit of the legislation had been enforced, and producers had been able to provide safe access to medicine to all of their patients I am certain that R. Greenleaf Organics would now be offering their high quality medicine at between $5 and $6 dollars a gram.

Willie Ford
Executive Director – R. Greenleaf Organics


Posted at cannabis.com (2011):

MimbresValley said: …I have been working with other patients in the program on a one on one basis. I have met with 19 patients in the southern half of NM and helped them with their production, they have been documenting the costs for them to grow cannabis indoors in controlled growing enviroment to turn into the DOH. Generally ends up being about 75$ for four ounces of cured medicine…


Provided that Haiden uses cannabis daily, his seizures are down to only a few a day. Haiden requires a marijuana strain high in cannabidol (a chemical with analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties) and low in THC (the psychoactive ingredient in pot). The strain is expensive, rare, and difficult to cultivate. If Day purchased it in a dispensary, it would end up costing him about $15,000 a year to treat his son. That number could rise exponentially in the coming year.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/legalization-could-hurt-medical-marijuana-in-washington-2014-1#ixzz30B2fCt74


4/27/2014, Law enforcement pushing for marijuana law changes (Rhode Island)

You would literally be taking medicine away from patients,” she said, adding that many patients say the cost of getting medical marijuana from licensed compassion centers has proved to be prohibitively expensive

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/apr/27/law-enforcement-pushing-for-marijuana-law-changes/#ixzz30B62ZuiT

Cost of Medicine

Posted at boards.cannabis.com, but has since been removed:

12/29/2011 by shadowyazn: What really bothers me…is that I can literally find an ounce of master kush on the street for 250.00…whereas a place like NaturalRX charges 15.00 per gram all the way up…15×28= 420.00. Almost a 70% price increase. That kind of situation IMO is just WRONG.

NM DOH Mission and Vision

The New Mexico Department of Health

Mission: Promote health and wellness, improve health outcomes, and assure safety net services for ALL people in New Mexico.

Our Vision: A healthier New Mexico!

As a medical cannabis patient, I don’t really see my interests being represented by these statements. Since most MMJ patients are not in the best of health anyway — many having turned to medical cannabis as a last resort — how do I get help from an agency that wants to make me… “healthier”? Healthier than what?

And if the DOH’s mission is to assure safety net services, how come there isn’t one for the Medical Cannabis Program? Don’t medical cannabis patients deserve some help too?

“Standard Treatments” Required by the Law?

I pulled a copy of the 6-page Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act from the DOH website, so I assume there hasn’t been any amendments made to it. As the law stands now, a “qualified patient” is defined as “…a resident of New Mexico who has been diagnosed by a practitioner as having a debilitating medical condition and has received written certification and a registry identification card issued pursuant to the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act.”

A “written certification” is described as “…a statement in a patient’s medical records or a statement signed by a patient’s practitioner that, in the practitioner’s professional opinion, the patient has a debilitating medical condition and the practitioner believes that the potential health benefits of the medical use of cannabis would likely outweigh the health risks for the patient. A written certification is not valid for more than one year from the date of issuance.”

Nowhere in this definition does it indicate a requirement within that law that, to be qualified for the program, a patient must prove “that standard treatments have failed to bring adequate relief,” as indicated by the DOH’s language (and as relayed by Dr. Jenison).

I don’t think a lawsuit is needed to interpret the language within the Act as it pertains to this issue — it is very plain and clear. (And that’s what you call free legal advice.)

5/19/2014, New Mexico Patient Numbers Dip


New Mexico’s medical marijuana program is struggling to grow its patient base, and some believe it’s due to the challenging process of registering for an MMJ card.

A spokesman for New Mexico’s Department of Health said 1,385 patients joined the program during the first quarter of the year, however 1,528 patients left during that period.

The numbers equate to a net loss of 143 patients. Currently, the state has 11,083 patients registered to receive medical marijuana.

According to sources within New Mexico’s medical marijuana industry, the patient number has lagged because there are only a handful of doctors who prescribe the plant.

Also, patients can sometimes wait several weeks to meet with a licensed practitioner who will help them obtain an application for a license. The Department of Health can take up to 30 days to approve a license.

Producer Responses to Medicine Shortage and DOH Proposed Rules

Selected excerpts from Producer responses:

6/6/14 email to Ken Groggel (DOH) from a producer with their name blacked out
I understand the very important need for restrictions on personal production. We hear stories of personal production abuse where individuals are growing upward of 50 plants and selling their surplus on the street in direct competition with Licensed Producers. There definitely needs to be restrictions on the PPL side… I say Conduct site inspections regularly… [Fear of competition.]

5/20/14 email to Ken Groggel (DOH) from The Verdes Foundation
I would propose using the same logic for the current 150 plants and $30,000 fee… The DOH still gets the revenue and we can work with those numbers to provide adequate supply to patients and solve the shortage. [Current producers are going to solve the shortage on their own?]

Undated, received 6/13/14, from Fruit of the Earth
Producers would appreciate accountability from DOH as to how funds are being spent, just as we are held accountable.

6/10/14 letter to Retta Ward (DOH) from the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee, The Committee also seeks an opportunity to hold a public meeting of the Committee on this subject in Taos on July 17, 2014, at which we request testimony from you and your staff as well as testimony from the public relating to the proposed rules. [Are you guys seriously asking and expecting chronically ill patients to now travel to Taos? Will there be a live feed or a transcript?]

Undated, received 6/16/14, Letter from Jason Marks, Attorney for the Cannabis Producers of New Mexico, Inc., a “trade association of 16 New Mexico non-profit producers.”

Excerpts from letters authored by this group:

6/25/14 letter from R. Greenleaf:
“The fact is that all of the LNPPs were consulted and there was a discussion of increased plant counts and fees at a January 3rd, 2014 meeting.”

7/1/14 letter with producer’s name blacked out by the DOH:
“The meeting that was held on January 3, 2014 between the DOH MCP and the licensed nonprofit producers felt like the DOH MCP was listening to what the producers had to say.”

6/30/14 email to DOH:

Currently, MJ Expresso has enough money to survive but not much else… Our biggest problem is diversion. To be honest we have no shortage, in fact we have a surplus of medicine!

[Maybe your medicine isn’t that great. Ya’ll should work on that. And you mention diversion, but you don’t go into further details. Are you stating a fact or just guessing?]

Selections from Fruit of the Earth Organics email to the DOH dated 6/30/14:

New Mexico has the highest percentage of people living below the poverty line in the entire nation, at over 22%, which is more than one in five people. It is my understand that the state that the NMDOH has been studying as a model is Connecticut, which has the third lowest level of poverty in the country, at 10.9%, national average being around 15%.

[So, for those wondering where the DOH is getting its information and which state it is using for a “model” — it’s Connecticut. A state that doesn’t even have a working program yet. For more info: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/02/nyregion/medical-marijuana-is-legal-in-connecticut-but-not-yet-sold.html?_r=0%5D

This indicates that the costs of running their programs are shared by both the patients and the producers. In New Mexico, up until now, there has been no fee for the patients to get their card, and producers have paid some of the highest licensing fees for the lowest plant count. The brunt of the costs for the administration of the program has been carried by the non-profit producers.

[And then the producers recoup these costs from patients with debilitating medical conditions.]

At Fruit of the Earth, we believe that the shortage is no longer that great, and can be addressed simply by increasing the plant count for existing producers. As we see it, licensing of anything more than a couple additional producers is going to create a surplus, especially considering the attrition rate of patients dropping out of the program.

In short we do not believe that the DOHMCP should increase producer costs while increasing patient costs while increasing the number of producers. We recommend approving two more producers at most… Beyond that, with the increased plant count, you will then create a glut in the medical market.

[Well, what do you know, another producer who is fearful of too much supply — a “glut,” of all things — when this program has never before experienced that situation.]

From another member of the Guild, in a letter dated 6/27/14 (with the producer’s name blacked out by the DOH):

As one of the leading NM Medical Cannabis producers…

Patients should not be charged a fee for being enrolled in this program and to access their medicine. Any other patient, not in the medical cannabis program, does not have to pay just to have the right to purchase their medicine from a pharmacy; our patients should not have to pay to have the right to purchase their cannabis medicine.

Patient Responses to DOH Proposed Rule Changes

The Department of Health has an obligation to help patients. Do your job!

As a PTSD patient who suffers from flashbacks in the most embarrassing of settings, I have finally found something that works for me in every way, and I refuse to let people who have never even used the herb themselves make decisions about how I obtain my medicine. NMSU student, aspiring super hero

Please don’t add any more stupid fees and regulations to the Medical Cannabis program. People are in pain and need relief. Do you really need to take money from people who are suffering??? Really??? Chronic Pain Suffer & Cannabis Patient, “Pray to God, fine, but keep rowing to shore.” –Old Russian proverb

We are a growing demographic of the population of the state of New Mexico and the United States and we will let our voices be heard. We will stand with every patient that is sick, dying, suffering and in need and make sure that they retain their rights to access affordable and healthy medicine. We will not be bullied by those who disagree with the medical program. So we are calmly and politely asking that you hear our plea for justice, civility and compassion. We are asking that the bodies of government in the great state of New Mexico do what their job description entails and serve the people of New Mexico, serve those in need, be an ally to the people who depend on their government to be compassionate, understanding and just. The need for compassion knows no political affiliation, is not democrat or republican, it is not biased based upon race, gender, or class, compassion is needed across the great country of the United States and it is what ties each citizen of this country together, we support our brother or sister in the name of Country, State, and allegiance…

Undated, received 6/9/14
The point is to provide relief to New Mexicans in need.

We treat our animals better than our humans.

The Dictionary defines Compassion as a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

How can you, all of you, read our medical histories and listen to our stories at the public hearings and still not grasp the scale of the physical, emotional and mental pain of almost 11,000 New Mexicans you are required by law to extend compassionate cannabis use to? How can you ignore and even try to add to the suffering and stress of all of us by your repeated assaults on this program? Every few months someone tries to do something that makes our program more difficult, more stressful and more expensive to patients. Where is the compassion? Where is the promise to do no harm?

What’s weird is I was on the methadone program. Guess what? The state actually pays for synthetic heroin. Also called methadone. But people on medicinal marijuana have to pay out of their pockets for their stuff. [Some grammatical changes made for easier reading.]

When I was taking pharmaceuticals, state Medicaid paid for them.

Undated, received 6/16/14
Why would a doctor prescribe a suicidal manic depressive drugs that could kill if taken enough?

The doctors I spoke to did not understand that I wasn’t asking for a prescription but just a certification as to a diagnosis. There is a great need for education of the medical professionals in this regard so that patients can be better served… It is 2014 and time to put aside the Reefer Madness mentality and allow patients the freedom to choose a natural remedy with dignity, respect, and compassion.

Date blacked out
Currently the second doctor I see to sign off on my medical cannabis, who is a pain specialist, is very difficult to get in to see. Appointments have to be made almost a year in advance which in many cases isn’t possible. Last year I had a three month wait to see him – my card had expired since I couldn’t see him in a timely manner – so I had to resort to other means to get my medicine while I waited.

Please help the people not punish them.

Undated and not date stamped
In all honesty, I am not sure how many more days I am going to be on this earth but what Cannabis has been able to add to the quality of my life is nothing short of incredible.

The proposed new testing rules look like a patchwork of politics grasping for respectability and relevance.

If batch testing is approved. Will this also include “green chili”?

All it will do is force me to have to buy crappy pot from the dispensaries who never have any product because they are always out and what they do have is no good and to expensive.

Every single time I get my medicine I see patients making compromises on what to buy because they can afford so little.

Have you people gone complete nuts?… This is insanity, I am already in a position of chosing food or medicine and you want to make it worse???

I have to continue to try to grow my medication because the cost to purchase all of it from a state facility is too great for my veterans disability income.

Having the small limit of only four is ridiculous to start with. Battling the excessive heat and grasshoppers also seeking medicine has diminished my crop excessively. I am on disability and can barely afford my medicine as is. Please do not hurt me by diminishing the amount I am allowed, instead increase it so I can live a better life and be able to grow my own medicine.

Undated, received 6/16/14
Instead of putting new policies in effect you should legalize it completely and benefit from it.

I just can’t begin to understand why it is such a fight to preserve something that is clearly HELPING so many people, and literally harming NO ONE…

Undated, received 6/16/14
These changes will force many patients to become criminals in the eyes of the law.

I am opposed to biometric identification.

But, the new rules would create big problems for patients… They are written in legalese not English. They might be easy for lawyers and law enforcement to understand but not for patients.

If there is a problem with the way the original appeals system was executed then by all means fix it, but completely removing the option for a patient to receive a fair hearing altogether will end up causing some very ill people real harm.

It is definitely my fear that I could, in the future, have a lot of trouble finding an apartment with management that is fine putting in writing that they approve of the practice. Looking the other way is one thing, but signing a piece of paper is something a lot of people strongly hesitate to do. I have enough trouble finding apartments with my low SSI disability income and the one cat. Already, the stigma of needing this medication is nearly too much for me to handle. I hate growing it and am nearly too sick to do so; I’m only doing it because I know how much cannabis helps and my income is already so limited. If I could find an even nearly-comparable alternative, I honestly would.

This PPL thing, which I’m just starting to get the hang of, is one of my only hopes to get some kind of relief and also possibly not be incredibly poor at the same time. Please consider that even landlords who approve to one’s face will likely hesitate to do so on paper.

And, yes, there are definitely licensed patients that abuse the current system of legalized medical cannabis in NM, but please find specific avenues to identify those individuals, hold them accountable, and don’t penalize all licensed patients for the misdeeds of some… Definitely look at how those individuals get medical referrals for licensing, look at their medical histories etc. Rumor has it not ALL licensed medical personnel are beyond reproach…). Mother of Licensed Medical Cannabis Patient and Resident and Registered Voter Of Torrance County

Anyone can grow weed. Not everyone grows great cannabis. MariaJuana

“I have epilepsy and always will. Why do I have to keep telling them that every year?”

Undated, received 6/16/14
“Since becoming a medical cannabis patient, I have been able to go completely off of blood pressure medicine, something I never thought possible.”

Undated, received 6/16/14, in its entirety:
Last night, as I printed maps to where we were supposed to park and where the building was, I kept thinking about how early I would have to leave Edgewood to get to Santa Fe, find the place to park, get on a van that was supposed to drive us to the hearing location where we were not allowed to park and then possibly stand outside in the sun and wind for hours because you, the DOH, can only provide seating for 240 people. I thought about how much pain I would be in later in the day when I had to somehow find my way back across town to where my car was and then spend another painful hour or more driving home. I do not know any other patients in Edgewood, so there was no one with me to carpool with. I also thought about how, after 2 life-changing car crashes, panicked I would be driving in congested rush-hour Santa Fe traffic. I actually got a little anxious thinking about it. And finally, I thought about how totally broke I was this month, having paid $300 out of my little Social Security check to have my re-certification paperwork signed. The expense of gas alone to get to Santa Fe and back was more than I could afford this month, not to mention not be able to afford much medicine for the month. Oh, well — I live with pain anyway so what’s a little more, right?

So, after a month of getting ready for this Hearing that is so important to me, I just could not go. The logistics defeated me.

Since I cannot be there, I can only ask at this point that you all set aside whatever reasons you have for wanting to destroy this program and instead, try to have just a little compassion for the patients who will suffer in so many ways because of your actions. We are real people with more collective pain and suffering than you can even imagine. Sometimes the best we can do is just get through the day. We need your compassion, not more punishment.

Please remember this as you decide the fate of this program and try to have just a little compassion for the 11,000 New Mexican medical cannabis patients depending on your decision.

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened… Anatole France

Undated, received 6/18/14
“Please stop the changes to our cannabis program please !!!!!!!!”

“I’m on SSDI and SSI and only live on $540 a month… Please, please, life is so so hard for me already to get through. Don’t make [it] even hard on me. I don’t want to die like that.”

“This is about science, not illegal behavior!”

“Older sick people need relief. Most have little money. Some can’t drive.”

“My psychiatrist prescribed me medications with such horrid side effects up to and including death, for years at a time. I didn’t have to go through any red tape for her to be able to poison me in that way. It was legal and lethal all at the same time.”

Undated, received 6/17/14
“At my age, I do not want to be reduced to a pill junkie requiring larger and heavier doses that ultimately result in a profound problem that overshadows an already existing orthopedic situation. Therefore, I humbly request the Congress of New Mexico to rethink any future legislation concerning cannabis on a personal and logical level that reflects the intelligence and sagacity I know you good folks possess.”

Undated, received 6/18/14
“If this program is weakened to the point of non-existence, or becomes more expensive than I can afford on a fixed income, I will be faced with the choice to either go blind or buy on the street. Which would you choose? Please don’t force me to have to make that decision.”

6/19/14, from public comments forwarded to me by the DOH:

“I would like to complain about the public hearing held on Monday, June 16th. I was basically locked out of attending due to me using a wheelchair. I was advised upon attending that the parking lot was full and I would have to park my van down the hill somewhere at the DoT building. This would have required me to work my way uphill and across the railroad tracks in my wheelchair. As a result, I gave up and had an attitude.

Now some days later I am left with the feeling that the weakest and most needy of users, and the ones most likely to be viewed as legitimate users, were discriminated against to keep them out of public view. Without belaboring the point, I just wanted to express my disappointment at the DOH over what happened.”

Undated, received 6/16/14
When the last meeting was scheduled, we took off work and drove up to Santa Fe, me on crutches with a re-fractured and re-cast ankle, only to find the meeting had been canceled with little advance notice. This time, I was unable to take the time off work to be there in person…

Open Letter to the NM DOH (May 2014)

VIA EMAIL medical.cannabis@state.nm.us
(and posted at nmcannabisreview.com in May 2014)

Open Letter to the
Department of Health
Medical Cannabis Program
1190 St. Francis Dr., Suite S-3400
Santa Fe, NM 87505

I am a current member of the Medical Cannabis Program and a 25-year intractable pain patient, having moved from Texas to New Mexico for the privilege of entering this state’s Medical Cannabis Program.

It’s such an easy thing to say, but it was not an easy thing to do; nor was it an inexpensive undertaking.

Out of all the states that have MMJ programs, my research pointed towards New Mexico because of its low cost of living, dry climate, and the unlikelihood of federal intervention in this small program. Unfortunately, my research did not uncover the actual amount of dysfunction that has existed within the program since its inception. No, I had to experience that first-hand to understand why my decision to choose New Mexico was the wrong one.

Hurdles for Renewal

It’s been a year since I entered the program, which initially required that I pay two different doctors to confirm that my intractable pain condition remained incurable, and that I was still breathing (previously determined through a long, drawn-out process by the Social Security Disability administration, and various doctors, insurance agencies, and attorneys).

My annual renewal requires that I pay two more doctors, including the cost of additional, updated, expensive, and useless tests, before sending my application to yet another doctor (this one with the Department of Health) for approval. I don’t know how my application was initially approved, as my medical records were older than the allegedly-required five years when I applied, but I assume that Dr. Rosenberg will not approve it a second time.

This requirement for updated MRIs is only for chronic pain patients in the program and is unsupported by current medical knowledge; especially considering the frequent inability of tests and technology to find the cause of pain, let alone being able to actually see and record it. The only thing a doctor will find with more expensive tests is that degeneration doesn’t get better, nor does it disappear. And the only reason to have an MRI is in contemplation of invasive treatments, like further surgery (which I have decided against).

In other words, there is no logical reason for this requirement, nor can I find where it’s documented in the law. I guess chronic pain patients have to pay an additional toll to prove that they are desperate enough for medicinal relief? The thinking must go along the lines of, if pain patients are willing to pay over $300+ every year to get a medical cannabis card, then they must be in pain.

At this point in time, I would like to refer the DOH to this definition:

Intractable pain has been defined as “a pain state in which the cause of pain cannot be removed or otherwise treated and which in the generally accepted course of medical practice no relief or cure of the cause of the pain is possible or none has been found after reasonable efforts that have been documented in the physician’s medical records.”

I have been diagnosed with (and treated for) intractable pain, but because some of my medical records are over 5 years old, I am no longer eligible for this state’s program? That is, unless I pay hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars more to meet the DOH’s requirements. Not only does that not make sense, it is quite unfair. If I cannot afford the cost of treatment (which includes fees, doctors, tests, and medicine) through the state’s medical cannabis program, then what are my other options?

As for maintaining a relationship with a doctor — two doctors in my case — well, if the State of New Mexico can produce a pain specialist that knows more than I do about pain management, I just might consider it. Although I am still unclear as to what these “relationships” would entail, besides paying for services I neither want or need.

The Public Hearing

In trying to reach a decision on whether I would be able to continue in this program, especially if it remained in its current form, I attended the recent public hearing in Santa Fe looking for some hope. After all my research and experiences, I didn’t have much hope before the hearing — after the hearing, I had no hope left at all.

I was disappointed that the public comment portion only lasted a short time. Taking into account the amount of problems within the program, I expected to be sitting in the auditorium (with its similarly dysfunctional audio system) for at least two or three hours listening to patients complain. (I even brought a snack in case I got hungry, and some to share, in case the person sitting next to me got hungry.)

I remember clearly my first thought after the hearing had concluded: “There’s no one here who can help me.” (Funny, it’s the same thought I had after attending one meeting for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Patients Alliance.)

I am sure that I’m not the first MMJ patient to have this thought, and sadly, I won’t be the last.

One speaker at the hearing was a caregiver who courageously told the story of one of her PTSD patients who committed suicide shortly after being denied renewal for his medical cannabis card. This is not only a tragedy, but it is sad that it went unreported. How many other cases like this have gone uncovered?

Because of the restrictive nature of this state’s program, patients paying to legally access marijuana in New Mexico are those who have turned to this medicine as a last resort; which means that along with their physical pain, they are suffering from some kind of mental pain also (anxiety, depression, anger, etc.).

For instance, if one were to perform a survey, allowing a large population of chronic pain patients to answer anonymously, you would find (what I think is) a significant percentage who have some type of history of suicidal thoughts — including me.

More Pain for Pain Patients

Pain patients have been under siege since the War on Drugs began, forcing many to extreme (and sometimes illegal) lengths to find treatment. In fact, being a pain patient has become almost as bad as being a drug addict or a criminal — if you are a pain patient, you have definitely felt like, and been treated as, both.

And if you keep up with news on chronic pain, you will find that this condition has become linked to addiction, even though the rate of addiction for chronic pain patients is very low. But in the current medical climate, if you are being treated for chronic pain, you are also being treated for addiction — whether you like it or not. This unfair social and governmentally-placed stigma is one reason why so few pain patients do not come forward to tell their stories, especially when it comes to managing pain with a federally-illegal substance.

I cannot adequately explain what it is like to live in constant pain — physical or mental. But I can tell you that there are probably very few chronic pain patients who haven’t thought about suicide at some point in time. To a chronic pain patient, an end to pain really does sound like heaven.

When it hurts to move, you cannot imagine the mental effort it takes to do so. Every minute of every day — it is exhausting. When pain reaches a certain level and remains constant, managing it becomes the center of your life; there is little room for anything else. And it is no wonder that there is an epidemic of prescription medication abuse, as (contrary to what doctors used to say) these medications are seriously inadequate to treat chronic and intractable pain, especially on their own. Where are pain patients supposed to turn?

As a chronic pain patient, most of your focus is on finding relief — no matter how small, no matter how brief. In fact, a lot of pain patients become psychologically addicted to pain relief, not the medications taken to achieve that effect. But regardless of where the addiction stems from, the physical withdrawals from prescription medications remain a major reason why patients stay on them so long — and because there are so few other options for treatment.

If you listen to pain patients, they are looking for better and safer options, especially to combat all the negative side effects offered (and caused) by Big Pharma (including the abuse epidemic) — and that’s what medical cannabis represents. The effectiveness of marijuana for the treatment of chronic pain cannot be matched by any other single therapy or treatment, whether the medical establishment defines them as standard or “alternative.”

What Happens to Patients Who Fail to Renew?

I thank the State of New Mexico for allowing me to participate in the program, and wish I had better news to report. After a year of paying for a supply of medical cannabis adequate for my needs; after spending an enormous personal investment to experiment with 50% of the current producers; and after being unable to consistently find cannabis I would consider medicinal strength — after all that, is it any wonder that I cannot afford to renew? Or that so many other patients fail to renew?

And yet, the DOH appears totally uninterested in the number of patients who don’t renew; why they don’t renew; and what they do after dropping out of the program. If patients were the number one priority, we might have answers to these questions. But New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program looks like the rest of American healthcare — incredibly lacking in access and only affordable to an ever-decreasing number of people. And really, that’s an incredible shame.

Medical cannabis allows me to be more physically and mentally active, and the loss of this medicine means that I will lose the improvements over the last year that came with it. Things like a decrease in depression and anxiety, and an increase in physical activity — and, without even trying, a decrease in my addiction to cigarettes.

However, I will not regret leaving behind the daily cost of this treatment program, and the incredible amount of stress involved in the daily search to find adequate medicine within it.

The Future for This Pain Patient

But just like it didn’t kill me to stop taking buckets of prescription medications, it won’t kill me to stop consuming medical cannabis. In fact, it will be a breeze compared to the other. And I have found that I prefer being the one in control of my pain management treatments, including how much I decide to pay for them.

I have spent an uncalculated amount of money within the medical establishment in the last 25 years, and the only return on my investment was very little to no improvement; and eventually, just a worsening of my condition. At this point, I see no reason to keep investing in doctors and more tests.

No, it won’t kill me to stop treating my pain with medical cannabis — at least not right away. But living with pain every day shortens a person’s lifespan, and living without treatment, or any kind of relief from that pain, is sure to decrease it even further. (Along with making life rather miserable in the process.)

See, it was really hard to find much happiness in life while I was stoned on prescription medications, but it’s been a different story with medical cannabis. Not only am I never “stoned” (and a safer driver), but I am able to handle stress better, and with that, have found a few things to smile about.

I have a few other “legal” options for drugs besides marijuana, although I hope I’ll be able to stay away from prescription medications. (And by the way, I’ve saved the Medicare prescription drug program a heck of a lot of money in the last couple of years — no thanks needed.)

My other legal option for drugs is food, like sugar and french fries, which many poor people use to self-medicate — and when my card expires on May 22nd, my new drug of choice.

My home treatment plan is also being altered to fit my status as another pain patient without affordable access to quality medicine, including adding more activities I can do without moving too much, or thinking too much, and that can be accomplished with a minimum amount of stress. It’s a plan that causes isolation, but when you cannot obtain pain relief, isolation is usually preferred.

Why Is This Letter So Long?

I just want the Department of Health to understand the consequences of its actions — prior, present, and future. And I’m talking about the consequences to a patient, not just to the producers who will be losing my business, and the business of all patients who do not renew.


I really don’t know what else I could have done to make this program work for me, except to have gone against my better judgment and tried to grow my own medicine. It doesn’t matter who you talk to, or what you say, if you complain about the program, the only response you get is to grow your own. Thanks, but no thanks.

In fact, it’s almost like the majority of people involved in the program would prefer to pretend that the dysfunction doesn’t exist, or that it can be fixed with the same old spit-for-glue ideas. Ignoring (and retaliating against) patients (and doctors) who complain has been just one more problem that has existed since the program’s inception.

With all the secrecy and fear surrounding the program, is it any wonder that few patients complain? Even if patients wanted to complain, how or where would they do that? Twice a year at the public hearing? And when complaints are ignored or brushed aside, is it surprising when they stop being made?

I’ve performed an amazing amount of research on New Mexico’s program; spent the last six months posting that information on a local website for everyone to see; I traveled to, attended, and spoke at the public hearing — and after all this effort, I have accomplished nothing except emptying out my wallet.

The (Lack of) Media

There is little media attention focused on the Medical Cannabis Program in New Mexico, as evidenced by the same article being cut and pasted to run in a handful of websites whenever there is news to report. A few local reporters have tried to report on the program, but their efforts have dwindled and currently are not very in-depth. And the reporting rarely includes the voice of patients, with the exception of a few bearing messages from the producers and certain advocacy groups.

So far, the Albuquerque Journal has been correct in one respect in its reporting on the program: the lack of transparency is a real problem, and not just for reporters.

Unfortunately, I see the newly proposed rules as just making a bad program even worse — sort of like reverse evolution. Thankfully, I don’t have to move very far north to find a better program (when I can afford to do so).


Just as other members of the Medical Cannabis Program face risks, sharing my personal medical information also comes with risks, besides being a lot more public than I would ever choose to be.

Really, it would not have been my preference to be so open about something so private, but the lack of voices from patients in this program — especially pain patients — coerced me into it. After all, one must take a stand at some point in time, and on May 22nd, the only protest I’ll be able to make against everything mentioned herein is to cut up my card.

(Oh, and in November, I get that one vote.)

Johnna Stahl
Albuquerque, NM


For more information on the increase in suicide rates, please see:


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects data about mortality in the U.S., including deaths by suicide. In 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), 38,364 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans (Figure 1). In that year, someone in the country died by suicide every 13.7 minutes.


May 2, 2013

Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.

More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in Friday’s issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-TALK (8255), TTY line: 800-799-4889