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Some New Mexico patients extol the benefits of medical marijuana

Some New Mexico patients extol the benefits of medical marijuana

By Diana Alba Soular /
Posted:   06/29/2013 05:09:09 PM MDT


Melissa M. Loomis, a part-time employee for MJ Express-O in Truth or… (Shari V. Hill/Sun-News)

LAS CRUCES — Melissa Loomis, 40, of Elephant Butte describes herself as a former “opiate addict.” She’d had major surgeries on her spine and suffered debilitating pain.

“I couldn’t walk or hold my head up,” she said. “I was told by the best neurosurgeon in the state of New Mexico that I would never walk and that I would never look at anything but the floor.”

After the state launched its medical cannabis program a few years ago, Loomis was quick to apply to become a registered patient.

She said she got rid of the slew of pharmaceuticals she’d been on — a major relief, she said.

Now, Loomis said, she’s mobile again and able to work part-time at MJ Express-O, the state-authorized medical marijuana grower in Truth or Consequences.

“The first thing in the morning, I’ll take a couple of hits,” she said. “That way, I can get out of bed. Without it, I’m real stiff.”

Loomis is one of the 9,090 active patients who are registered in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program.

A state law authorizing the first-ever program passed in 2007. But it took the state health department until 2009 to license the first producers.

There is a process to becoming a registered patient. First, a person must determine if he or she has one of 17 qualifying medical conditions, ranging from cancer to HIV/AIDS to post-traumatic stress disorder.

After that, the patient must find a doctor willing to sign a form, available from the state health department, certifying that an

individual indeed has the medical condition, said Gene Lester, executive director for MJ Express-O, a Truth or Consequences-based medical cannabis producer.

Once the form is filled out properly, it’s submitted to the state, Lester said. If it clears, the person is issued a state card indicating they’re OK’d as a medical marijuana patient.

“Once they get a card, they can register with a producer,” he said.

There are 23 producers, also called growers-dispensers, statewide. There’s one such operation in Las Cruces, though MJ Express-O is looking to expand its presence into the city by opening a dispensary.

The producers, organized as nonprofits, said they’re required to have a doctor, physician or certified nurse practitioner on their governing board.

Dr. Eve Elting of Truth or Consequences, who sits on the board of MJ Express-O, said two of the most common conditions of patients in the program are post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. She recounted an instance of a former military member who’d served in a war in the Middle East. In distress, he’d twice held a gun to his mouth in front of his mother, she said.

“Since he got into the program, that hasn’t happened,” she said.

Elting said cannabis doesn’t work as a treatment for everyone who has a qualifying condition. If that’s the case, she said, they just drop out of the program.

“But for many, it has really changed their lives,” she said. “It has really improved their quality of life.”

Vivian Moore, who sits on the Las Cruces producer’s board, said she became involved in the organization because she wanted to help family members, including her husband who had cancer, by creating a local supply of medical cannabis. She said she strongly believes in using medical marijuana as a replacement or a supplement to more conventional pharmaceuticals.

Moore said it’s more-natural and often less-impactful to the body.

“Cannabis has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes,” she said.

Plus, Moore said, patients buying from the state’s authorized providers are getting a higher-quality and safer product than what they’d get buying on the streets.

Often, a challenge for patients in Las Cruces is finding a doctor who’s willing to certify that they have a qualifying medical condition, Moore said. Many physicians are concerned about involvement because marijuana is a federally illegal substance, she said.

Moore said, however, that doctors don’t actually issue a prescription for marijuana. Rather, they just certify that a person has one of the 17 medical conditions. It’s the state that authorizes patients to buy the marijuana, she said.

Elting said sometimes people mistakenly think depression and anxiety are qualifying conditions, but they aren’t.

Loomis said the cannabis helps ease her pain, and she’s seen positive effects in other people in the program.

“There’s a lot of people in town here that are old, retired vets,” she said. “It just makes my day to talk to them and know they’re able to function, able to have some quality of life.”

Loomis said her job working for T or C’s cannabis producer is “very, very rewarding.”

“There’s a lot of people in town here that are old, retired vets,” she said. “It just makes my day to talk to them and know they’re able to function, able to have some quality of life.”

Said Loomis: “People need to know about medical cannabis.”

For more information about the state’s medical cannabis program, visit or email

Diana Alba Soular can be reached at (575) 541-5443; follow her on Twitter @AlbaSoular

Qualifying conditions to apply to the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program

1. Cancer

2. Glaucoma

3. Multiple Sclerosis

4. Epilepsy

5. Spinal Cord Damage with intractable spasticity


7. Painful peripheral neuropathy

8. Intractable nausea/vomiting

9. Severe anorexia/cachexia

10. Hepatitis C infection (currently receiving antiviral treatment)

11. Crohn’s disease

12. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

13. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

14. Severe Chronic Pain

15. Hospice Care

16. Inflammatory autoimmune-mediated arthritis

17. Cervical dystonia

Source: New Mexico Department of Health

For more information about the state’s Medical Cannabis Program:

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