My thanks to the Alibi and to Marisa Demarco for this well-written and informative article. While it is true that New Mexico has proposed to accomplish ground-breaking changes in how medical marijuana is provided to patients in need, your state is not there yet. But you are at least headed in the right direction. With any luck, and with some major changes in the political landscape around this issue, New Mexico may be in the best position to be the innovative model for medical cannabis production and distribution to state residents in need. I will continue to support movement in that positive direction.
I did want to correct one statement in the article that said I obtained the estimate of 46,000 New Mexicans who are now eligible for medical marijuana by "... by calling medical offices in the state and asking for estimates." That is not what I did.
I did call both state health agencies and private health associations to obtain the most complete and accurate estimates of the prevalence of those diseases and conditions that qualify patients for medical cannabis use in New Mexico. In two cases, I resorted to medical research articles in which state-by-state prevalence estimates had been calculated by national health agencies (e.g., CDC). Even though I spent only a few hours collecting this information, I think it does represent a reasonable starting point for discussing the potential reach right now if a well-conceived and well-run medical marijuana production/distribution program is put in place in your state.
Here are the numbers I was able to obtain for 2007 (unless otherwise indicated), and their source:
Cancer: 55,000-60,000 people living with cancer; 8,000 new diagnoses each year (University of New Mexico Tumor Registry -- these numbers do not include non-malignant skin cancers, which would double these numbers)
Glaucoma: 13,185 (2002 state-by-state estimate)
Epilepsy: 9,500 (1986-90 state-by-state estimate)
(Both of these numbers are likely to be higher in 2007-08 than when they were first calculated.)
HIV/AIDS: 3,500 living with HIV/AIDS; 165 new diagnoses each year. (New Mexico Department of Health)
Multile Sclerosis: 3,000 (National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Rio Grande Division)
Hospice admissions: 7,500 (New Mexico Association for Home and Hospice Care)
I was not able to find good stats (yet) for the specific spinal cord injury that also qualifies patients for admission in New Mexico's medical cannabis program at this moment. Thus, adding these numbers up (and including only new cancer diagnoses), it is not hard to come up with an estimate of now-eligible New Mexico patients that starts around 46,000. If the other medical conditions that have also shown to benefit from cannabis therapy are included in the list of qualifying conditions in New Mexico in the next few years, this number is likely to at least double.
This is why it is so important to develop meaningful, workable and achievable regulations to govern your state's fledgling medical cannabis program. I want to thank the Alibi again for its excellent coverage of that public hearing. I would be happy to answer any questions your readers may have. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .