Tight Regulation Creates Pot Shortage In NM

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By Jason Beahm on July 19, 2010 10:17 AM

Supply and demand. It's a delicate economic balance that is supposed to resolve itself in a free market. But when the market is restricted, it's easy to wind up with vexing results. For example, take New Mexico's pot shortage under its medical marijuana program. Only 11 growers are approved by the state to produce pot for 2,000 registered medical marijuana program patients. Once growers crops are ready, they often sell out within 24 hours.

The shortage has led to legally troubling results, such as sending patients underground in search of illegal marijuana due to their inability to procure marijuana from licensed sellers. The state has created a restrictive system to avoid perceived disorganization in other state medical marijuana programs. Growers are put through an exhaustive screening process and cannot exceed set quantity guidelines. The locations are also kept secret, so there are no storefronts.

State Health Secretary Dr. Alfredo Vigil opposes having medical marijuana programs like that of California or Colorado with hundreds of producers and many thousands of patients, which he believes "absolutely takes it out of the arena of use for in-state patients and into the arena of defacto legalization." Vigil says he must balance patients' needs against preventing legal pot from winding up on the black market.

Many patients and growers however, disagree. They see the governments restrictions as an unreasonable interference with getting sick people their medicine. Some patients have to wait months in order to access legally grown marijuana.

Medical marijuana law continues to be an evolving legal gray area. Marijuana is illegal under federal law. However the Obama administration has stated that they do not plan to prosecute dispensaries that comply with state law. California has a ballot measure coming up for vote in November that would legalize marijuana across the board, with age and quantity restrictions.

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