"This is giving them another way to enjoy their life, enjoy their families and still be able to control their pain in a safe way."
From the outside, Ultra Health in Hobbs, looks like any other store front in any other shopping plaza in any other town in the country.
It's not until you get to the front doors that you realize not just anyone can go inside. Dispensary Manager Logan McIlroy said on the other side of the door is a cure all for pain; medical marijuana.
"I have been a medical marijuana advocate for the last few years. I'm very passionate about my patients and about this program and about getting people the help that they really need," he said.
McIlroy said his patients come in all shapes and sizes, from teenagers to people in their 80's, including war veterans. Minors, of course, need to have their parents with them. They run the gamut of illnesses, all of them have one, major thing in common. They want an alternative to get relief from their pain.
McIlroy says, "Probably, our biggest demographic group would be the 50 and older group, who have had lots of long-term aches and pains that they're looking to alleviate, without the use of any kind of opioid pain killer or anything like that. We have a lot of PTSD and, like I said, our highest demographic would be 50 and older."
We were inside Ultra Health when a patient stopped by to buy her first dose of medical marijuana. She has suffered with fibromyalgia for three years. She told us what the last year has been like for her.
"Feeling like two German Shepherds are latched onto your back, as you're trying to work. It's that severe where you just want to cry. You don't want to be on hydrocodone while you're working with the public," she explained.
Her daily pain medication routine included Hydrocodone, Xanax and sleeping pills, none of which were helping. It was after a visit from a family member that she decided to talk to her doctor.
"I was in severe pain and she helped me out. That's when I talked to my neurologist and he's like, we know what we need to do," she said.
She was issued her medical cannabis card and after one sample dose, she's already felt a noticeable change.
When asked if she was completely off her prescription meds, she replied, "Yes sir! Yes sir!"
New Mexico is one of 23 states that has legalized medical marijuana. But what is stopping people from driving across the border from Texas and going into Hobbs to pick up a couple of ounces for themselves?
"It's not that simple," said Dr Allen Hurt.
Hurt is one of a growing number of medical doctors in Hobbs and the state of New Mexico, who is embracing the idea of medical marijuana. He explained how his patients go about getting their medical cannabis cards.
"The department of health requires an application. It has to be filled out by a health care provider. They have to prove they are a New Mexico resident. They have to provide documentation proving they have one of the 19 qualifying conditions. Far and away, in every state, the major one is chronic pain. New Mexico is one of a few states that allows PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder, to qualify. So, in New Mexico, that's the second, most qualifying condition," said Hurt.
Ultra Health opened its doors in Hobbs on Dec. 10, 2015. They have dispensaries in Santa Fe and Bernalillo and plan to open another in Albuquerque, soon. They get their product from a grower in Bernalillo.
McIlroy says it's a very sophisticated operation. "It's a large facility, all indoor, all organically grown, very, very well taken care of. State of the art would be an understatement. Our new program that we use, our bio-track system, is actually a seed-to-sale program. Every plant, that we have is accounted for all the way from seed to sale."
Everything seems to be in order, from the doctor, distributor and patient's point of view. But what's to stop a patient from passing his or her "medication" to someone who doesn't have a permit?
McIlroy explained that as well, "Once the patients leave here, with their medication, they are 100% liable for how they handle it."
Many who are against legal medical marijuana might think, this is just another excuse to get high. Proponents agree, there is a stereotype, associated with marijuana that needs to be addressed.
Hurt said, "I think that's an example of the attitudes of the past. I predict, if I had 10 minutes to sit and speak with them, I could change their mind. It's really a miracle drug. I think it's going to be one of the miracle drugs of this century."
"The preconceived notion of the lazy, marijuana smoker, I think, is something that needs to be redirected," McIlroy said.
Logan says the medical cannabis program has huge support from the Hobbs community, including law enforcement. The patients certainly are for it.
"From being ex-law enforcement, yeah, because some do abuse it. But when someone needs it for medical, and you see the results, you feel the results. I can see where a lot of people would freak out about the idea. But, I'm a firm believer. I am."
The State of Texas is working on legalizing medical marijuana and making it available to people diagnosed with certain type of epilepsy, who suffer from seizures, that cannot be controlled by traditional meds. We're still about a year away from that happening.
Logan said, "I hope that the Texas legislature will look at the legislation that they have in play and maybe take note at how some of the other medical marijuana states have written their legislation."
Dr Hurt concluded, "Throw away their biases. Throw away their preconceptions. We're opening up a clinic in Midland. We, very much hope that the day will come when we will be able to issue medical cannabis cards for Texas patients."
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