New Mexico Gov. Lobbying for Separate Medical Marijuana Division to Run Pot Program

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As New Mexico’s fledgling medical marijuana program grows at a rapid clip, a top state health official is looking to create a new division responsible for overseeing MMJ licensing, regulation and enforcement.

Dr. Catherine Torres, secretary of Health and Human Services, told the Associated Press that she will ask legislators for permission to form the new department and bring on seven workers to staff it. Her goal is to move medical marijuana regulation outside the responsibilities of the state’s health department, funding a separate MMJ division with revenues gleaned from the fees dispensaries and growers must pay to get licenses.

It’s a positive development for patients and the entire medical cannabis industry in New Mexico.

The state’s governor, Susana Martinez, previously came out against medical cannabis and advocated to repeal the law, which was approved in 2007. But her administration is now looking to more effectively oversee the program despite her personal reservations.

That’s a decidedly different strategy than the one employed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who also opposes the idea of medical pot. Brewer has halted the permit process for dispensaries, in effect putting the MMJ industry there on ice.

Under New Mexico’s medical pot laws, the state monitors cannabis cultivation and distribution, and patients can get their medicine from licensed nonprofit dispensaries.

Roughly4,000 New Mexico residents currently posses medical marijuana cards, while another 1,000 have applied and are waiting as the state struggles to ease a backlog.