|N.M. Medical Cannabis Program Sees Record Pace in the First Quarter of 2020|
|By GLOBE NEWSWIRE|
|Thursday, 21 May 2020 11:25|
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., May 21, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., May 21, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Combined patient sales from the 34 licensed producers in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program totaled $40.1 million for the first quarter of 2020, an increase of $12 million or 43% over reported patient sales in the first quarter of 2019. Ultra Health topped all producers with $6.1 million in patient sales for the first quarter.
New Mexico’s top 10 cannabis providers accounted for 71% of total patient sales.
The program enrolled 85,168 patients as of March 31, 2020, an increase of 20% over March 2019 enrollment. A total of 6,128 pounds of cannabis flower was sold to patients during the first three months of the year, representing an increase of 30% over total pounds sold in the first quarter of 2019.
“Robust activity during a period of high uncertainty is a testament to the essentialness of cannabis,” said Duke Rodriguez, CEO and President of Ultra Health®. “Going forward, the new normal will create a far greater demand on the medical necessity, product availability and patient affordability of quality cannabis care.”
The Medical Cannabis Program is currently supporting a record number of nearly 90,000 patients while operating on its lowest supply of available cannabis since December 31, 2018. NMDOH reported 6.2 million grams in stock for the fourth quarter of 2019, and the available inventory for the first quarter of 2020 declined 58% to only 2.6 million grams of cannabis in stock.
On April 2, 2020, NMDOH incorrectly stated the 34 licensed producers had 36,000 pounds of unsold cannabis in stock. However, the most recent quarterlies filed by the producers confirmed just 5,714 pounds of cannabis in stock – an overstatement of 530% or 30,000 pounds. It is unclear how NMDOH determined their 36,000-pound figure.
Based on average sales per day, the in-stock levels translate to an 11-day supply of cannabis statewide despite the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act mandating an “uninterrupted availability of cannabis for a period of three months.” Furthermore, there were only 28 grams of cannabis available per patient at the end of the first quarter of 2020, while there were 77 grams available per patient at the end of the fourth quarter of 2019. This represents a 64% decrease of accessible medicine per patient.
The depletion of available supply remains even after the NMDOH raised the plant cap to 1,750 plants per producer in September 2019. The absence of relief on supply indicates there was substantial pent-up demand from the 450 plant cap rule, and the 1,750 plant cap is insufficient to meet the increased patient enrollment and growing needs of patients.
New Mexico’s patient enrollment is outpacing neighboring Colorado’s medical program, which enrolled 81,722 patients as of March 31, 2020. Although the two programs have comparable patient enrollment, New Mexico continues to lag behind in patient purchase limits, plants in production, and patient sales.
Historically, petitions have been submitted to New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to change plant production limits and patient purchase limits to be more consistent with neighboring states’ medical programs. The NMDOH Secretary has elected not to accept or endorse petitions related to these subjects.
New Mexico’s total patient revenues reached $40.1 million in the first quarter, while Colorado’s similarly-sized medical program topped $88.8 million – over two times New Mexico’s patient revenue sales with nearly six times the amount of flower and bud being sold. These comparative numbers do not include Colorado’s much larger adult-use program.
Based on patient enrollment and sales data for March 2020, New Mexican patients spent about $160 per member per month while neighboring Colorado patients spent $361. The major difference in patient sales per member per month indicates New Mexico’s program is not sufficiently meeting the needs of its patients.
As New Mexico’s program grows larger than Colorado’s, key adjustments need to be made to fully address adequate supply and patient access. The current programmatic differences of the New Mexico and Colorado models have led to significantly different patient sales, production, available plants per patient, pricing, and purchase limits between the two programs.
New Mexico patients pay higher prices for medicine they need because supply is hampered by regulation, and they are unable to obtain medicine in the quantities their conditions require. New Mexico continues to mandate the lowest patient-purchase limits in the country despite written confirmation from NMDOH that the department would revisit purchase limits during the summer 2019 rulemaking process.
These inequalities in production and patient access have resulted in lower-than-normal patient sales in New Mexico’s regulated market. In 2019, New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program reached $129 million in patient sales and Colorado’s program generated $338 million – nearly three times New Mexico’s sales with similar patient enrollment – during the same period.
New Mexico’s program also had far fewer plants in production due to arbitrary overregulation. In 2019, cannabis producers in New Mexico had a total of only 26,098 plants in production, largely in part due to the restriction of a maximum of 1,750 plants per producer. Meanwhile in Colorado, more than 319,374 plants were available statewide for medical cannabis patient needs with an enrollment similar to New Mexico.
Since Colorado legalized cannabis for adult-use, the state’s medical program has fallen from a high of 115,000 patients to now less than 82,000. New Mexico is likely to face a similar reduction in patient enrollment if patients cannot access the medical program in a more beneficial way than nonpatients can access the future adult-use program.
Ultra Health is New Mexico’s #1 Cannabis Company and the largest vertically integrated medical cannabis provider in the United States. The provider currently operates 20 dispensary locations statewide, with another 10 stores slated to open by the third quarter of 2020. Ultra Health provides unparalleled medical cannabis care by producing accurately dosed, smokeless cannabis products such as sublingual tablets, oils, pastilles, suppositories and more through its partnership with Israeli pharmaceutical group Panaxia. Ultra Health has been at the forefront of patient-rights issues and continues to fight for adequate supply and rural access in the New Mexico medical cannabis market.