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Judge: Law does not say New Mexico must allow more marijuana growers to meet demand

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SANTA FE, New Mexico — A judge denied a Santa Fe man's petition Friday demanding that New Mexico health officials reopen the application period for eligible marijuana growers.

State First District Judge Jennifer Attrep said state Health Secretary Retta Ward is not legally obligated to make sure there is an adequate supply of medical marijuana, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported (http://bitly.com/1ta3KPf).

Mark Springer, who has been trying to get licensed for five years, filed a lawsuit against the state in January. In the suit, Springer argued the state's rigid application process was creating a hardship for patients.

According to Springer, the number of patients who qualify for medicinal marijuana jumped by 10 percent in 2013. The number of people in need rose from 3,000 to 10,000, he added. Furthermore, the state is obligated to make sure there is an adequate supply to treat qualified patients under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, Springer said.

The state health department is currently considering proposed rule changes that include raising the number of licensed marijuana producers.

Deputy Secretary Brad McGrath said the department is "hopeful" that new rules will be in place early next year.

Last year, the department granted 23 licenses for new growers or those renewing licenses. The criteria to get one include filling out an application that touches on eight categories, including criminal history and distribution methods. The growers' licenses last for a year and enact a limit of 150 mature plants.

Attrep must still rule on a second part of Springer's suit. Springer also requested that the court enforce a letter he received from former Health Secretary Catherine Torres, saying that his application would be given priority if more marijuana producer licenses are issued.

The judge said she needed attorneys on both sides to write new briefs on the matter.


Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

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