LOS LUNAS — The mission of 420 Connect in Los Lunas is to help local patients who prefer an alternative method of medical treatment.

430 Connect owners Mike and Noemi Wallace pride themselves on providing affordable medical cannabis cards.

“The money saved on your card is money you can use on your cannabis,” Mike Wallace said. “We wanted to create more access to this amazing medicinal plant.”

Before creating 420 Connect, Mike Wallace served in Iraq, and was a pain and spine specialist and a nurse practitioner. Prior to that, he worked for a large geriatric group.

“I’m very familiar with the needs of the senior citizens,” Wallace said. “There’s ways to use cannabis in the geriatric population and diseases, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and chronic pain.”

The couple started building relationships with local dispensaries to provide local patients with medical cards so they wouldn’t have to make a trip into Albuquerque to do it. Though medical cannabis is legal within the state of New Mexico, the use of the plant still carries a negative stigma.

Wallace listed one of the biggest benefits of using medical cannabis is that there isn’t any potential for overdosing.

“You can’t overdose on cannabis,” Wallace said. “That’s a huge thing, especially if you have a chronic pain patient where medical cannabis has allowed them to get off their pain medication.

420 Connect in Los Lunas is located at 3414 N.M. 47 in Suite D south of Arrow Animal Hospital.

“It might not completely take away their pain but if they’re routinely able take their pain from an eight out of 10 to a four out of 10, they’ve reduced their pain 50 percent and improved their function and quality of life.”

Wallace said the majority of patients are not looking to use marijuana recreationally but rather to treat a medical condition.

“There’s a big number of seniors who simply want relief. It’s not necessarily about getting high in that population; it’s about alleviating the symptoms with the least amount of medication and side effects,” Wallace said.

Qualifying conditions for medical cannabis cards include Alzheimer’s, cancer, sleep apnea, PTSD and chronic pain. The full list of qualifying conditions are listed on their website, 420connectnm.com.

“I have a pretty big number of senior patients who use cannabis,” Wallace said. “They want access to the creams and the topical stuff or maybe a gummy bear to help them sleep … The true medical patients are trying to be dose-appropriate and use it as a medicinal plant.”

An under-served community are veterans, Wallace said. Many veterans who consider using medical cannabis fear losing their disability benefits.

“This myth is not true. There’s a new Department of Defense policy from 2017 that instructs veteran’s hospitals and veteran’s clinics to look at cannabis on a different level and actually be able to have that conversation with the veteran about their cannabis use as it relates to their current diagnosis,” Wallace said.

However, currently the Department of Veteran Affairs medical providers cannot recommend medical cannabis.

“That filters down to regular health care systems that receive federal dollars … because it’s still considered federally illegal,” Wallace said. “I think in the beginning, the program was kind of designed was for the patient to be able to go see their primary physician and the primary did the card for them. But so many people and health systems and physicians refuse to do cards because they’re afraid they’re going to get in trouble.”

This started the evolution of certification companies.

To get a medical cannabis card, a patient must have one of the 28 qualifying conditions mandated by the state. Within each condition, there is a requirement for a patient to provide medical records that will reflect that their condition is chronic and debilitating. They are also required to have a medical practitioner who is following their condition.

An alternative to providing records is a letter from the doctor that states the patient has the qualifying condition, as well as providing a New Mexico ID or driver’s licence.

Patients can then schedule and appointment at 420 Connect to review the records and Wallace would conduct a medical exam and makes his recommendation to provide or renew a card.

The recommendation is reviewed by the medical director of the medical cannabis program in Santa Fe, and then the card may be issued.

“We’re just trying to provide affordable prices for cards and create greater access to medical cannabis for patients,” he said. “We want to make sure they get some education on the use of the products, and we partner with our dispensaries. We try to know their products and what they have so we can better serve the patients we come in contact with.”

Potential patients are referred to visit the Americans For Safe Access website to read an article which Wallace calls, “Cannabis 101”.

“The reason for education is really important. The thing about medical cannabis is it takes a little bit of evaluating the cannabis that you’re using to see what kind of effect you’re going to experience,” Wallace said.

The potential side effects can vary with each strain of cannabis, which is why Wallace encourages patients to educate themselves as much as they can.

420 Connect offers quality CBD products made by Herbal Doc, Pharmacists and Registered nurses that specialize in medical cannabis CBD products.

420 Connect is located at 3414 N.M. 47, Suite D., Los Lunas. For information, call 850-4849, or visit 420connectnm.com.

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Anna Padilla, News-Bulletin Staff Writer