The clock turns over. I have to remember to write the correct date. They go by faster now, it seems. I smell the air: seems pretty much the same …
But I bet it’s smelling different for a whole lot of New Mexicans as we cross another starting line. This last year saw a wild increase in the number of patients who've enrolled in the state's medical cannabis program. According to statistics released by the New Mexico Department of Health, 45,374 patients were enrolled in the program at the end of November. Las Cruces Sun-News says that's a 77 percent increase over the year, with a 19,650 net patient gain.
Joining the program is hard to describe. A weight you didn't even know existed is lifted from your shoulders. Everything brightens. When I first got my card, I couldn't stop smiling. My hand shook as I handed it to the receptionist on my first visit to a dispensary. I could hardly keep it together.
I consider it a practice run for when this country wakes up and lets the beast out of its cage.
In the meantime, the fight for legalized cannabis in the Land of Enchantment continues. State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino has introduced a bill that could put legalization on the ballot for New Mexicans this year if it gets past state legislators.
I know, I know. It's the same old tune again and again. Trust me, no one is as frustrated as (I would imagine) Ortiz y Pino must be. Every year he's introduced legalization legislation, and every year it's failed. But this really could be the one.
It's become clear that our state is having a rough time right now as funds dry up and the weight falls on our youth and those stricken by poverty. We're hemorrhaging political grease. We need money. And Ortiz y Pino is offering up a viable way to get some by legalizing the use and possession of cannabis for anyone over 21. The measure only needs a two-thirds majority vote in both the Senate and the House to get on the ballot. The best part: Governor Susana Martinez—who has blocked legalization at every turn—has no say in the matter.
Hopefully we're at a serious turning point. The majority of our gubernatorial hopefuls seem pro-cannabis, and our situation is just dire enough that it might make our lawmakers pause for thought this time around before dismissing it out of hand. I'm also hopeful since the two Democrats who caused Ortiz y Pino's cannabis resolution to be tabled last year cited drug addiction as a reason to keep cannabis illegal. In the past few months, however, a study conducted at UNM found a significant correlation between enrollment in the medical cannabis program and reduction in opioid use, meaning cannabis helps to fight drug addiction, not perpetuate it.
As California's legalization laws kick in, attention has come to the often overlooked problem of state and federal laws clashing at interior checkpoints operated by US Border Patrol agents. New Mexican cannabis patients are probably already aware of the numerous interior “border” checkpoints we have in the southern part of our state. When they bring the dogs out to sniff your bumper, they don't care what laws allow you to carry your medicine with you, they will confiscate it and most likely throw your ass in jail.
It's why you have yet to see any reviews of Las Cruces dispensaries coming from yours truly. The place is literally surrounded by feds, and since I can't legally consume my meds in my car or in a hotel room …
Legality of cannabis notwithstanding, the fact that you have to drive through a “border” checkpoint 50 miles in from the border is just asinine to me.
In any case, the Border Patrol is warning people in California that whether it's legal there, or not, they're going to bust you for it. Classy.
A recent study showed that more women are turning to cannabis than ever before to deal with the discomforts of pregnancy. A research letter published by the journal JAMA looked at the cannabis use of a sample of expecting mothers from California in 2016 and found that 7.1 percent of the women in the group were using cannabis to ease morning sickness and help fight anxiety, compared to the 4.2 percent they reported in 2009. A different study, also published by JAMA in Jan. 2017, used data from a sample group that covered the entire US and found that those who reported consuming cannabis in the previous month rose from 2.37 percent in 2002 to 3.85 percent in 2014.
It has yet to be made clear whether using cannabis during pregnancy is harmful to the fetus or not. Doctors continue to steer patients away from it as a treatment option since there's not enough research out there. It's very possible that it could cause birth complications. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists still suggests that “women who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy should be encouraged to discontinue marijuana use.”