NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – There’s a push in the Roundhouse to make it easier and less expensive for more than a hundred thousand medical marijuana patients to keep their cards. Right now, people who use medical marijuana have to renew their patient ID cards every three years, and they have to get a medical certification annually – this can be costly.

“This bill coincides the renewals with the doctors’ visits and so it would be every two years for both. That would save the patients half of the money they are spending on it now,” says Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque). Getting the card is free, but doctor’s appointments can cost more than $200.

Senate Bill 242 is gaining momentum; it was discussed in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee Tuesday afternoon, Mar. 7, after passing out of the Senate. Backers of this bill say this relieves the burden on patients and health care providers, especially in rural areas.

“One of the big aspects of this though is the savings to the patient. Collectively, with the over 100,000 we have in the program, they would end up saving approximately $11 million or more just in the expense of these doctor visits annually,” said one expert witness from the state’s Medical Cannabis Program. They say 40% of people enrolled in the program fall into the low-income category.

The bill passed unanimously, and will head to the House Health and Human Services Committee. The Medical Cannabis Program processes 119,000 certifications every year; this bill would cut that burden in half.