The recent expansion of medical conditions that can qualify state residents for a cannabis prescription and the increase of plants dispensaries can legally grow – from 450 to 2,500 – have major implications for businesses on the cusp of a growing industry that is still in its nascent stage here in New Mexico.

To get a sense of what state dispensaries are doing to adapt to those changes, The Taos News visited this week with Maria Fernandez at New MexiCann, a medical cannabis dispensary she manages at 1033 Paseo del Pueblo Sur in Taos.

Q: Medical cannabis was recently approved for treatment of six new conditions, including opioid use disorder, Alzheimer’s disease and autism spectrum disorder. How do you expect those changes will impact your business?

A: It’s definitely a step forward. There are so many underlying conditions that are out there that haven’t been recognized but cannabis has helped. But I think the big one is the opiate addiction. That was really huge and is a big step. Being from Northern New Mexico – I was born and raised in Taos – I have seen the [opioid] epidemic that’s been going on around us. It’s been crazy, so if we can kind of curb that and take a more natural approach, then that’s what we’d like to see.

Q: Say someone comes into your dispensary who has been diagnosed with opioid use disorder. How would you advise them to use cannabis responsibly, as medicine, and not as another drug to be abused?

A: First of all, we’ll sit and talk with them. Some people coming off of opiate abuse deal with a lack of sleep, lack of appetite, anxiety. It’s about pinpointing what they feel themselves, because no two people are the same. If they aren’t sleeping well, then I’d say ‘Let’s find you a good Indica tincture or an edible to help you sleep at night. Your anxiety is a little high? Let’s up your CBD intake because CBD is amazing right now.’ There are so many people that are using it because it helps your brain, it helps your body.

Q: As your patient base grows, how has the temporary approval to raise the limit of plants a dispensary can grow impacted your supply and overall business?

A: That step to increase the plant count helped us tremendously because we were only allowed so many. New MexiCann has four locations, so we were spreading it pretty thin between the four locations. We’re not the only dispensary in Taos, but in Las Vegas that location is the only one, so it was spreading the medicine pretty thin. There were people coming in who are dependent on this medication for sleeping and eating and we weren’t able to supply them. Even with the increase, we’re still down because it takes a while to grow the plants and to make the medicine, to get the oil. But we’re finally seeing the upside of it.

Q: How many patients are you seeing?

A: We see an average about 75 patients a day. I’d say we have about 8-900 patients (total) from Taos and the surrounding communities.

Q: Do you find that doctors and nurses are receptive to this as a form of medicine?

A: I can say that when I first started there were a lot of medical professionals who were resistant, but I’ve seen a huge turnaround. We have a lot of doctors in the community that encourage it. They’re seeing the results. It’s helping people. We’re out there.

Q&A conducted by reporter John Miller