What's in a name? Local coalition protests use of 'pharmaceutical' by marijuana dispensary

Jessica Onsurez
Carlsbad Current-Argus

The Carlsbad Anti-Drug/Gang Coalition, in a letter to the New Mexico Medical Board and New Mexico Board of Pharmacy, voiced objections to the use of the label "pharmaceutical" by marijuana dispensaries.

"The fact that these dispensaries can use a term, which makes them equal to legal Pharmacies, can be confusing to young people of the potential harm from marijuana use," the letter reads.   

The Coalition's letter cites the number of adolescent treatment cases — 52 percent in 2013 for marijuana abuse — as an alarming indicator of the harm that false labels can produce. That statistic comes from a national survey on drug use by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

But does it adequately reflect the danger, if any, to the children of Eddy County and Carlsbad?

The 2016 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that one in four New Mexico High School students said they'd used marijuana at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey.

The survey cited ease of access to marijuana as a major risk factor for New Mexico's children. The survey does not mention any "image" associated with the use of marijuana by youth.

Woods Houghton, former member of the board and author of the letter signed by the Coalition's board, said the letter was a result of a concern expressed by a citizen of Carlsbad.

"I did research to see if there were any regulations that prevented them from using the word pharmacy," Houghton said. "I also came across a number of other concerns in letters written in other states."

Houghton said most commonly those concerns included the licensing — or lack thereof— of those who conduct consultations on use and dosage of medical cannabis, a Schedule 1 narcotic.  

The state of New Mexico does not require those who work in medical cannabis dispensaries to be licensed. 

"Where does one get trained to be a Medical Marijuana pharmacist?" the letter inquires.

In Carlsbad there are three operating medical cannabis dispensaries; only one uses the word "pharmaceutical" in their business name.

Pecos Valley Pharmaceuticals is located on South Canal Street and is one of three dispensaries the company owns in southern New Mexico. The other two are in Roswell and Las Cruces. 

On their website the company uses the term "natureceuticals" to describe their product.

Despite several attempts by the Current-Argus, Pecos Valley Pharmaceuticals couldn't be reached for comment.

The Coalition is a non-profit organization whose mission states they work to create "safe, healthy, drug & gang/crime free environment." 

Jessica Onsurez can be reached at jonsurez@currentargus.com, 575-628-5531 or @JussGREAT on Twitter.

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