Medical pot program too easily abused

There were legitimate concerns with some of the Department of Health’s proposed revisions of its medical marijuana rules — a hefty new fee that had yet to be justified chief among them.

But rather than reconsider why users — presumably some of the state’s most medically vulnerable individuals — should have to fork over an extra $50 every year as a renewal fee when the program is in the black, the department instead is abandoning plans to add criminal background checks on patients who grow their own and reduce the number of plants they can have.
That’s right, if you have arrests and/or convictions say, for possession with intent to distribute illegal narcotics, it’s don’t ask, don’t tell, and pass the fertilizer.

It is the latest misstep from a department entrusted with overseeing a program that by definition sanctions a drug classified as illegal by the federal government, all in the name of providing some compassionate relief to the state’s chronically ill patients.

Instead, the program has struggled to ensure there is enough medical marijuana available for patients dealing with debilitating ailments including AIDS, cancer and MS. The Health Department has concealed the identities and criminal histories of commercial producers since the program’s beginnings in 2007, protected prescribers who write a disproportionate number of prescriptions and admit to seeing patients while stoned, and failed to address claims of price gouging and poor quality.

Health officials are expected to make a final decision on their other proposed changes after a hearing officer’s report is turned over this month. Let’s hope they do something to establish a little credibility in a program that to date they have allowed to be too easily abused.

— Albuquerque Journal