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New Mexico to Improve Medical Marijuana Education and Outreach

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New Mexico’s medical marijuana program continues to see patient enrollment growth. The program is going through a restructuring phase to put more focus on education and community outreach. Researchers found that most of the educational outreach has only been in urban areas or select groups.

Doctors and patients say they’ve been hesitant to talk about the program with the Health Department, according to Santa Fe Reporter. A greater effort to educate medical providers may help solve that problem. There are organizations and private entities offering marijuana education courses, but their prices are steep.

The Health Department will be hiring staff to aid in redesigning outreach and education methods. The state also plans to hire a second medical director. The charge of that position will be to manage how the program engages with medical providers and others wanting education on how medical marijuana works.

Kenny Vigil said, “We want folks to know in the medical community what the program is, what it can do – and also for those who are aware of the program, if we spot issues with incomplete application, we can try to help them out on this. We hope to be a little more proactive.”

There have been about 33 presentations specifically for medical providers regarding medical marijuana in New Mexico since January 2014. Most of those presentations took place either in Albuquerque or Santa Fe.

Vigil reports that the state has only responded to requests for “teach-ins” regarding medical marijuana, not providing additional education to medical providers specifically.

Vigil said, “We will have organizations reach out to us saying they want more information about the program. Basically, it’s based on invitations for us to go to them.”

The medical marijuana program does reach out to medical providers from time to time. Emails may be sent from time to time offering presentations or educational overviews.

Dr. Maureen Small said, “We are hearing from many patients that they are afraid to discuss medical cannabis with their doctor and we regularly are confronted with providers having misconceptions about the program. One of our missions here at the Department of Health is to inform the medical community about the medical legal aspects of the program and the latest scientific research on medical cannabis.”

Requests for educational and informational presentations in rural areas and Native lands are coming in. The state plans to focus more of its energy there, so that potential patients and medical professionals in those areas have an opportunity to learn and have their questions answered. The University of New Mexico Health Extension Rural Offices (HERO) program has coordinated programs for rural areas like Gallup and Silver City.

The HERO program does much of its own outreach. This still leaves some rural communities untouched, but that may change in the near future.

Jason Barker of the Lynn and Eryn Compassionate Use Act said, “It’d be nice to see some of the producers take on some of that aspect. They mention in the licensure requirements that they [should] put forth some educational duties for patients and programs.”

Dr. Steven Rosenberg said, “You need to treat cannabis patients like any other medicine, and if you’re going to recommend a course of therapy, even if you’re not writing a prescription, you still have to know something about the substance you’re recommending. One of the consults I did was because [the patient] didn’t get any instruction from the person who certified them, and that was what they were told to do. Come see me.”