Marijuana is poured into a bowl in the back room of a Colorado dispensary before it is placed in one-gram packages for retail sale. (Denver Post file)

New Mexico medical marijuana program balloons in just a year, now has 40,000 patients

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The medical marijuana industry in New Mexico has grown substantially since being organized in 2007.

About 8,000 New Mexico residents have obtained a medical marijuana license since Jan. 1, which brings the statewide total to more than 40,000 patients, the Albuquerque Journal reported. The amount of patients has increased by 84 percent since March 2016.

The number of dispensaries has also increased. The statewide total is at 56 after being at just 36 in January 2016.

In 2015, none of New Mexico’s cannabis producers had total receipts that exceeded $1 million. This year, five growers topped $1 million in sales from January through March, alone.

First-quarter sales this year topped $19 million, up 91 percent throughout the same period in 2016, New Mexico Department of Health data shows.

However, some think the industry’s growth is a cause for concern. State Rep. Bill Rehm thinks the system is being abused.

“I think there are a bunch of people who are obtaining marijuana cards, not for a true medical reason, but for justification for them to smoke marijuana legally,” Rehm said.

But R. Greenleaf & Associates Director Willie Ford says while that might be true, most people are using the system for legitimate medical conditions.

“I have put my full faith in the Department of Health,” Ford said. “They have a good system for determining and confirming a person’s eligibility.”

The health department’s application process requires patients to provide documentation from a physician supporting a medical diagnosis for a qualifying condition.

Information from: Albuquerque Journal