RUIDOSO, New Mexico -- In New Mexico, there's concern over proposed changes to the medical marijuana program. Concerns include the worry that increased licensing fees will lead to a spike in prices, forcing some patients to buy their supply on the streets.
'I don't like being an outlaw, but that's what they'd be forcing us to do,' said Dan Rainey, a Vietnam veteran and marijuana patient.
'Hopefully it won't happen that way,' said Rainey, who lives on a fixed income.
Compassionate Distributors, the non-profit licensed provider that supplies him and other patients in southern New Mexico, will likely be forced to raise prices due to increase in the New Mexico Department of Health's licensing fee.
'They're taking tripling (the previous licensing fee) to $90,000 a year,' said Mandy Denson, owner of Compassionate Distributors. 'Then, we'd have the fee imposed to test. And the test would have to be done on each plant.'
'We're talking maybe $500, $600 per test per plant; plus, with the increased fees that (are) going to be imposed per plant,' said Denson. 'I don't see that we can be competitive.'
Her shop has a steady flow of patients, including Mary Steel, who arrived on a motorized scooter with her little dog, Leo.
'Thank you, baby,' Steel said with a smile as she was handed a bag of medical marijuana after paying.
'Raise the price, and who's going across the border?' said Rodney, a patient who would only give his first name as he walked out of the shop using a cane.
He went on to say he would not look to Mexico for his supply, adding that cash strapped patients might turn to the black market.
Another patient predicted competition would not come from across the border; instead, the Texas border could become an area of conflict in places that high quality strains of marijuana are grown.
'The other sources are good and inexpensive, as seen by young people who drive to California, drive to Colorado and come back with a load they can sell,' said Jack Noel, a medical marijuana patient.
Noel grows his own plants, but the proposed changes will reduce the number of flower plants he's allowed to have from four to two.
'Personal production licenses are the one area where the Department encounters law enforcement concerns regarding diversion of cannabis,' said Kenny Vigil in an email response to questions about the rule changes.
'I won't be able to grow enough of the medicine that I require and want,' said Noel who prefers edibles rather than smoking. 'They don't accept juicing as a medicine.'
'The Department of Health is proposing changes to the regulations that are intended to increase the availability of medical cannabis for qualified patients in the Program,' said Vigil.
According to the New Mexico Department of Health the state would 'impose maximum possible fees on non-profit producers of three-times the current fees ($30,0000), while simultaneously permitting non-profit producers to triple their production (and thus triple their revenue).'
Noel predicts many patients won't be able to afford higher prices charged by non-profit producers who pass on the higher cost. .
'If the rules go through, the program is essentially over.'