Marijuana producer challenges New Mexico limits on plants


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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Department of Health is being sued by a medical marijuana producer and a mother who uses oil derived from cannabis to control her infant daughter's seizures.

The lawsuit filed this week in state district court challenges the state's limit on the number of plants a licensed producer may grow.

The limit of 450 plants is keeping some patients from getting what they need, according to the lawsuit, which was filed by New Mexico Top Organics-Ultra Health Inc. and Bernalillo County resident Nicole Sena.

"State programs need rules to operate fairly, and the rules should not be arbitrary," Ultra Health CEO and president Duke Rodriguez said in a statement. "Regulations should be consistent with statute, reflect the reality of patient specific needs, program growth and be supported by a credible assessment of supply and demand."

Patients enrolled in New Mexico's program have increased rapidly from about 14,000 in 2015 to more than 26,000 as of this summer.

With an increase in demand and complaints about supply, the state last year raised the plant limit from 150 to 450, new producers have been licensed and the amount patients can have was increased.

Health Department spokesman David Morgan told the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/2bCPlXx) that as the new producers get established, "there will be more medicine for patients."

The plaintiffs said the state's 35 producers are licensed to grow an industry total of 13,800 plants, resulting in a ratio of one-half plant for each patient. In neighboring Colorado, where pot was legalized for recreational use and sales, that ratio stands at six plants per medical marijuana patient.

According to the lawsuit, Sena says her daughter's seizures have stopped thanks to the use of oil from a strain of cannabis called Haleigh's Hope. The specialized product takes a greater volume of raw plant material to make, and Sena often has to leave the state to find a reliable supply.

Ultra Health says it has been forced to buy marijuana and marijuana products from other producers to meet demand. The lawsuit contends that's much more expensive than growing the plants itself and it drives up the cost.

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