New Mexico's medical marijuana program has seen significant growth in the decade since its inception in 2007. Since the beginning of the year, around 8,000 New Mexico residents have registered for the program, and the total number of MMJ patients in the state now tops 40,000, an increase of 84% since March of 2016.
The total number of dispensaries in the state has also increased to 56, up from 36 last January. According to the state Department of Health, first-quarter sales this year were over $19 million, which is 91 percent higher than the first quarter of 2016. Five cannabis producers in the state made more than $1 million in sales each, a feat that no provider was able to perform back in 2015.
“We are probably the single fastest growing industry in New Mexico,” said Duke Rodriguez, CEO of Ultra Health LLC, the state’s largest cannabis distributor. “This is the one industry that has been a juggernaut of growth. Patients are coming out into the bright daylight and saying they advocate and support cannabis. No longer is it a hush-hush topic.”
The success of the state's program has sparked accusations that the program is being abused by recreational users. “I think there are a bunch of people who are obtaining marijuana cards, not for a true medical reason, but for justification for them to smoke marijuana legally,” State Rep. Bill Rehm said.
However, Willie Ford, Director of R. Greenleaf and Associates, said that he believes most of the registered patients are using MMJ for legitimate reasons. “I have put my full faith in the Department of Health,” Ford said. “They have a good system for determining and confirming a person’s eligibility.”