New Mexico’s medical cannabis patients are at risk of running out of medicine due to the effects of COVID-19 and statewide shutdowns, according to a recent report published by O’Donnell Economics.
Ultra Health, New Mexico’s #1 Cannabis Company, has felt the effects of COVID-19 with unprecedented demand and patient sales since March 2020.
“The pandemic substantially increased demand for medical cannabis in New Mexico, worsening the state’s medical cannabis shortage, driving up price, and negatively impacting patients,” the report, produced by Kelly O’Donnell of O’Donnell Economics, stated.
The medical cannabis shortage highlights a significant deficiency in New Mexico’s public health infrastructure.
The increased demand can be attributed to cannabis patients being a medically vulnerable population in New Mexico. Some patients are immunocompromised, putting them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. A majority of patients have qualifying conditions and the symptoms are likely to be exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic such as social isolation, joblessness, restricted access to healthcare, and anxiety about the future.
Even before the pandemic, demand for medical cannabis substantially outpaced supply in New Mexico. The restrictions on supply resulted in a medical market with artificially high prices and limited variety of medicine available.
As of March 31, 2020, there were only 2.6 million grams of flower and bud in the aggregated inventory of all providers, resulting in a 12-day supply statewide despite the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act mandating an uninterrupted three month supply of cannabis.
Limited supply paired with the pandemic-induced spike in demand was accompanied by a jump in price. Between December 31, 2019, and March 31, 2020, prices jumped by 17 percent to $11.64 per gram – more than 3.5 times the average price per gram for medical cannabis in neighboring Colorado.
The report points out that medical cannabis is one of few commodities the state of New Mexico has complete control. It recommends that the state increase the number of cannabis plants under cultivation to help meet growing patient demand.
“Increasing supply would both bolster flagging inventories and reduce upward pressure on cannabis price, lessening the negative impact of COVID-19 on medical cannabis patients,” the report states. “Increasing plant count is the simplest, most effective way to combat shortages and ensure access for [patients].”
Cannabis has seen increased demand across the country as states have begun to struggle with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. New Mexico is experiencing a similar effect as patient sales for the first quarter of 2020 grew by 43% over the same period in 2019.
The impending shortage of available medicine is also paired with unfortunate mental health statistics in New Mexico and across the country.
The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are causing increased anxiety, social isolation, and depression resulting in a spike in drug overdose deaths nationwide. According to the White House drug policy office, fatalities have increased by 11.4 percent year over year, indicating statewide lockdowns and economic uncertainty has worsened addiction throughout the nation.
Furthermore, New Mexico’s suicide rate is the highest in the United States. In 2018, the state had its highest number of suicides – 535 – since it began recording suicide deaths in 1999.
“Immediately eliminating arbitrary restrictions on plant count and patient purchase limits is the most responsible and patient-centric action regulators can take amid unprecedented pandemic pressures and increases in the cost of medicine,” said Duke Rodriguez, CEO and President of Ultra Health®. “The good news is more and more New Mexicans are seeking the cannabis care they need. Unfortunately, the bad news is the level of despair and pain is only getting worse. We need compassionate care more than ever.”
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.