Medical Marijuana: An Intimate Look Inside One New Mexico Dispensary


September 27, 2010 – One of the best kept secrets in New Mexico has to do with the medical marijuana program. Who are the growers and what do they have inside their facilities?

We take a look at how one nonprofit group takes a controversial drug from a seedling and grows the medicine that many New Mexicans depend on.

Southwest Organic Producers (SWOP) is one of 11 licensed medical marijuana producers in New Mexico. The group takes huge steps in ensuring their high-grade medical cannabis is not only safe, but effective.

One room holds multiple potent strains of the drug, some eight feel tall and every one of them bulky with fragrant buds.

Jacob White shows us SWOP’s flowering room and explains the process of taking these plants which out put flowers to attract pollen and then denying them pollen which in turn produces a more potent product, as well as a higher quality one.

SWOP takes every step necessary to guarantee everything from the PH balance to the nutrient levels are closely measured and monitored. Plants get a strict 12 hours of light and 12 hours of complete darkness.

“They are essentially getting a whole summer’s and late fall’s worth of growth, in just a few short months by the manipulation of the light cycles and the light spectrum,” White tells us.

The clients of SWOP must be licensed to receive medical cannabis. Many have weakened immune systems.

“This is medicine, so it needs to be treated like medicine,” White explains.

Trichomes, tiny crystals that grow on the plant’s buds, determine the potency of the product. These trichomes contain THC which is where most of the active ingredients in cannabis are found.

SWOP sorts, prices and sells their product based on these trichomes.

In taking those steps necessary to stay efficient SWOP uses the leftover leaves from other cannabis products, such as oils and muscle salves.

A local bakery also assists the producer in making edible products from those leftover leaves. Goodies like cookies and brownies are also sold to clients who maybe err on the sweet tooth side.

SWOP also sells clones to those clients who have a license to grow cannabis at home.

Amidst the medical marijuana controversy, SWOP’s mission is simple: To help licensed patients by providing safe access to high-grade medical marijuana. And their work doesn’t go unnoticed, at least to their patients.

“I’ve gotten the exact same phone call multiple times, some from patients, some from family members. But saying, thank you so much, you’ve given me my husband back, or my daughter has her father back,” White says.

It should be noted, the process of getting licensed isn’t easy for patients. They must qualify as having an medical condition that would benefit from medical marijuana, then get a recommendation from their doctor, and in some cases, they need a second recommendation from a medical specialist. From there, they must pass a review by the state. If all conditions are met, the patient is given a medical cannabis card along with a list of rules and growers.

“People that really need it are getting it and the steps are there that prevent people that don’t really need it from getting it,” White explains.

New Mexico currently has only five medical marijuana producers actively producing cannabis. Six others are still in the start up stages.

SWOP has 634 clients.

White worries that there are not enough facilities available to help patients, who have been enrolling in the program at a record rate.

Doctors have slowly become more willing to sign off on these prescriptions upon learning they’re not legally responsible for a patients marijuana use. Legally they can’t lose their license for recommending a patient to the program.

Growers throughout the state are continuing to take precautions to both protect themselves and their product. 9 of the 11 medical cannabis producers have formed a guild, which allows them to work together to better meet demand. Source.