New Mexico’s once-thriving medical cannabis program has experienced a significant downturn, witnessing a staggering decline in patient counts from a peak of over 135,000 in May 2022 to approximately 85,000. This drastic reduction not only marks a substantial decrease in patient enrollment but also translates to an estimated $85 million loss in cannabis demand. The repercussions of this decline have raised concerns within the industry, prompting a critical examination of the factors at play.
Duke Rodriguez, President and CEO of Ultra Health, a prominent player in the state’s cannabis market, has been a vocal advocate shedding light on the potential consequences of this unexpected downturn. Rodriguez emphasizes the potential impact on the approximately 50,000 New Mexicans who may now find themselves priced out of the medical cannabis market, bringing to the forefront critical issues of accessibility and affordability.
This decline in patient enrollment comes on the heels of New Mexico’s landmark decision to legalize adult-use cannabis in April 2021. While many anticipated a surge in cannabis participation, the reality appears to be a far cry from these expectations. Industry insiders and stakeholders are now grappling with the complex interplay of factors that have led to this sharp decline and the subsequent economic repercussions.
One of the primary concerns raised by industry experts is the accessibility of medical cannabis in the wake of adult-use legalization. With the recreational market opening its doors, patients may be opting for the more convenient and easily accessible adult-use dispensaries, inadvertently leaving medical cannabis providers in a lurch. The ease of access and potentially lower costs associated with adult-use cannabis may be diverting patients away from the medical program.
Affordability, a cornerstone of Duke Rodriguez’s concerns, is a crucial aspect influencing patient choices. As the medical cannabis program experiences a decline, questions arise about whether the cost of obtaining a medical cannabis card, coupled with the prices at medical dispensaries, is deterring patients from participating in the program. Rodriguez warns that the loss of tens of thousands of patients could have severe consequences for both the industry and the individuals who rely on medical cannabis for their well-being.
Moreover, the decline in patient counts raises broader questions about the choices patients are making in seeking alternative treatments in the absence of cannabis. Are patients turning to other forms of medication, or are they simply opting out of medical cannabis treatment altogether? The industry now finds itself at a crossroads, striving to understand the evolving needs and preferences of patients in the ever-changing landscape of cannabis legalization.
As stakeholders in New Mexico’s cannabis industry grapple with these challenges, there is a growing consensus that a comprehensive review of the state’s medical cannabis program is warranted. This review should not only focus on the economic implications for businesses but also address the concerns of patients who may feel disenfranchised by the evolving cannabis landscape.
The unexpected decline in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program has sent shockwaves through the industry, prompting a reevaluation of accessibility, affordability, and patient choices. Duke Rodriguez’s impassioned plea for attention to these critical issues underscores the urgency of addressing the challenges facing the medical cannabis program in a post-legalization era. As the industry navigates this uncertain terrain, it remains to be seen how New Mexico will adapt to ensure the continued well-being of its medical cannabis patients and the sustainability of its cannabis market.