ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Drug Policy Alliance of New Mexico said thousands of patients’ medical marijuana cards are expiring across the state and it could be months before they get a new one.
According to the New Mexico Department of Health, it’s taking up to 60 days to process applications for patients applying and renewing their medical cannabis cards; when it should only take 30 days.
Kenny Vigil, spokesperson for the Department of Health, said it’s the influx of people applying for the program that’s causing the delay.
“We want people to understand that we take this very seriously and we understand it’s not an ideal situation,” Vigil said. “We’re doing what we can.”
According to Vigil, within the last year they’ve had nearly 10,000 people apply for the program. The state said nearly 25,000 people are enrolled.
“I think that our message to patients whose card isn’t up to date at this time; they should really contact their medical provider to see if they can find some other type of relief until they can get their card,” he said.
Patients are concerned and said the Department of Health is putting them at risk of breaking the law.
“If a patient’s card expires, they’re not protected under the medical cannabis program,” Jason Baker said. “Either your stuck not having medicine, or back into the uncomfortable position or grey area of, ‘Am I a criminal breaking the law to get my medicine?'”
According to the state, it hired four new people to help get caught up and still looking to hire another two employees.
Right now, the department said it’s processing about 2,700 applications each month. The department hopes to be caught up by the end of the summer. It’s also asking patients not to call unless it has been more than 60 days.
KRQE News 13 asked the state how many patients currently have expired cards; they said their system doesn’t track that data.