Updated: Nov 12, 2020
So you've finally considered medical cannabis as an integrative or holistic way of managing your health condition(s) and know that New Mexico has a Medical Cannabis Program. Now what? In this article I'm going to help give you some peace of mind and arm you with the most information I can. I've highlighted each question so you can choose what you'd like to learn more about but if you are new to this process and don't know where to start, I'd recommend reading everything so you have the complete picture.
Typical questions we get when people ask about getting their card are: Where do I go? How much does this cost? Why are the prices different at each cannabis cards clinic? What do I provide for my appointment? When can I see someone? What is the process?
These are all good questions that may elicit some unclear answers depending on who you're talking to. Trust me, sometimes the answers aren't as simple as you want or expect them to be. Nevertheless, let's start from the beginning, shall we?
There are 4 basic things you need to know about becoming a medical cannabis cardholder:
1) The Department of Health processes the applications and issues the cards for medical cannabis patients. They also oversee all of the legal stuff for patients, doctors, and cardholders involved with the program.
2) You MUST have a valid New Mexico ID or driver's license to submit your application (per the Dept of Health). They do accept temporary IDs, but only if you have your old ID with it. New Mexico is no longer accepting out of state licenses.
3) A prescribing clinician needs to sign your application. By signing your application the clinician is recommending you for participation in the program. Not to be confused with a prescription from a clinician. Medical Cannabis Cards clinics exist because many clinicians can't sign the application or don't want to. Why can't they? If their place of work accepts any federal funding (aka Medicaid or Medicare), this is a conflict of interest. The doctors at medical cannabis cards clinics are technically private practice which removes the conflict of interest.
4) You MUST have a qualifying medical condition and the documentation to prove it. There are 28 medical conditions that the Dept of Health accepts. 26 of them are physical conditions and 2 are psychological. For the complete list, click here.
Now that we've cleared up some of the confusion, let's answer some more questions:
What should I bring to my appointment? All of the physical conditions require recent medical records (within the last 12 months). If you don't have your medical records you can request them from your doctor through the Medical Records department there or you can fill out a release form with our office if you plan on seeing one of our doctors. Often times hospitals and clinics charge you a fee to release your records. We don't. Also be aware that legally your doctor is supposed to release your records to you within a 30 day window after you request them. If you have PTSD, the one of the psychological conditions, you can bring a copy of your diagnosis from your counselor or psychiatrist or you can be evaluated by a provider at your appointment for your cannabis card.
How long will this process take? It depends. Yes, that's right. It depends. If you go to your appointment for your card and you have your NM ID or driver's license and correct medical documentation (unless you're getting evaluated for PTSD) then the last step is submitting your application to the Department of Health in Santa Fe. They take between 2-4 weeks to issue your card to you via snail mail. They send your card to the mailing address you put on your application along with a list of all of the dispensaries in NM and information about the program.
If you are missing your NM ID or driver's license or the correct medical documentation, the process for your card will delay until your application is complete. In our office we allow patients to see our doctor missing these items. If you're missing your NM ID or driver's license, you can send us a photo via email, text, or fax. If you're missing the correct medical documentation, we have to wait for your medical records to get to our office and then we have to have the doctor you saw review them and finish up their part of your application. The waiting time to receive your medical records takes us 2 to 4 weeks on average and in the worst case scenario, even longer. Your application does not get submitted to the Dept of Health by our office until it is complete and then you have to wait the additional 2 to 4 weeks to get your card. Unfortunately there is no way around that and don't let anyone tell you otherwise because the Dept of Health will not issue your card if you are missing these items. The moral of the missing items story: come prepared for your appointment.
Why does this cost so much? Or why does each clinic charge different prices? First of all, know that this is considered an out-of-pocket medical expense. You can claim this on your state taxes at the end of the year as a medical expense along with all of your dispensary purchases. No matter what doctor or specialist you go to, if they are out of your insurance network or you are uninsured paying full price you are doing the same thing as you would at a cards clinic. The cost of the consultation for your cannabis card depends on what the clinic is paying their doctors for each consultation and what the clinic decides to keep for themselves. This doesn't mean that no matter what price you pay, you are getting the same service or precision everywhere.
When you're doing your research, ask yourself what you want to get out of this. Do you want the cheapest cannabis cards clinic? Maybe you're getting what you pay for. Do you want the best of the best so you're willing to pay the most? Consider that some clinics enjoy lining their pockets. If you're asking me who I think you should choose, I think you should choose a clinic that offers CBD products that you can purchase to start your treatment before you get your card. You should choose a clinic that respects and considers your privacy and protected health information. You should choose a clinic that offers additional education about medicating while you're waiting for your card. You should choose a clinic whose staff is legitimately knowledgeable and willing to answer any and all questions about medical cannabis while you're on your journey after you get your card. If you're wondering if Homegrown does, we do. But that's not what this is about. This about giving you all of the tools you need to make the best decision for you.
Last but not least, when can I be seen? The answer is: that depends. Boy, you thought you were done with that answer didn't you? It is nearly certain that almost every doctor at the cannabis cards clinic has another job too but it is safe to assume that each cards clinic will do their best to get you some options each week. Our office travels to many locations around New Mexico and don't have offerings every week for smaller communities but we make sure that we are there at least twice a month. In our Albuquerque headquarters we have a clinician available each week.
Congratulations! You're an informed consumer on how to get your medical cannabis card in New Mexico and how to choose where to go. Now you can go out and make good decisions.
Happy and healthy wishes!
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