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 May 10 - 16, 2018 
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Baked Goods

Finger in the Air

Candidates flaky on legal cannabis

By
Baked Goods logo
Rob M.

Over the last months, we've seen cannabis decriminalized in Albuquerque and hemp research legalized at the state level. At the national level, we're seeing serious bipartisan efforts to legalize hemp on the parts of lawmakers.

The country is clearly moving in the right direction, so why is it that only one gubernatorial candidate in New Mexico is willing to fully support cannabis legalization publicly? Last month, Democratic candidate Jeff Apodaca sent out a release detailing his plan to legalize recreational cannabis and expand the medical program. “We were the first state to authorize medical marijuana in 1978 when my father signed the law,” he wrote in the statement, “why are we shooting for being the last to legalize cannabis for adult use?”

And the others? In a profile recently published in the Albuquerque Journal, Democratic forerunner and US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she's willing to sign legislation legalizing cannabis for adult use if it “includes protections for kids, DWI, medical cannabis patients and sensible regulations.” This is a vast improvement and seems like a glowing pro-cannabis stance, but I still remember soft language coming from her camp a few months ago when she called to “move towards legalizing recreational cannabis in a way that improves public safety” and “conduct a thorough analysis of recreational cannabis programs in other states.” That might sound promising, but this old cynical warhorse has been around the block enough to know a squeamish lack of commitment when I hear it. She also managed to tag on that while legalizing, the state needs to make sure “we do not jeopardize the current New Mexico medical cannabis industry and existing producers.” Which seems like an odd concern that has little to do with ethics or public health. Curious—I believe this demands closer inspection over the coming months.

The final Democratic candidate, Sen. Joseph Cervantes doesn't plan to legalize at all, according to his profile in the Journal. He says he's open to hearing plans that “show economic and regulatory viability,” but is more concerned with championing decriminalization, which he says he'll do immediately if elected. Only problem: The voters in Albuquerque and Santa Fe already have that. You're just going to have to do better, Cervantes.

Meanwhile, when asked about his stance on legalization of cannabis last month, the sole Republican candidate—Congressman Steve Pearce—said, “I do not see how in combating poverty you can put one more obstacle in front of people who are struggling to get out of poverty, so I don’t see where I would support recreational marijuana.” He also added: “I don’t see how it fits that we’re going to deal with addiction and yet we’re going to people, ‘This one is OK.’ ” A spokesperson for Pearce later claimed the comment wasn't made to distinguish cannabis use by rich and poor people, and said the candidate meant that Colorado has “their right to spend their tax money mitigating the destructive effects of drug addiction how they choose,” implying that legal cannabis is a detriment to society.

It might come as no surprise that Pearce is bucking legalization, but the Democrats are clearly going against their own party's sentiments. In March, the New Mexico Democratic Party publicly announced their support for legalizing at the federal level at the party's pre-primary convention. They encouraged New Mexican Democrats to support the removal of cannabis from the list of scheduled drugs in the Controlled Substances Act.

I can't help but wonder how every candidate but Apodaca seems to have trouble perusing the growing body of research and data pertaining to the positive effects cannabis has had on the states where it's legal, but the constant refrain of “need more research” means they must be missing a few studies here and there.

I suppose their days are quite busy, so I suggest we all help them out a little. Two studies were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine last month that linked access to cannabis and lower rates of issued opioid prescriptions. In “Association Between US State Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescribing in the Medicare Part D Population” researchers at the University of Georgia found that states with medical cannabis dispensaries had a 14.4 percent reduction in the number of daily opioid doses filled compared to states without medical marijuana laws. In “Association of Medical and Adult-Use Marijuana Laws With Opioid Prescribing for Medicaid Enrollees,” data showed that in states where medical and recreational cannabis laws were enacted, they were followed by reductions in Medicaid opiate prescription rates of 5.88 percent and 6.38 percent, respectively.

Since Pearce obviously doesn't understand the actual connection between cannabis and opioid addiction, I'll be mailing full copies of these studies to his office in Washington (2432 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515). I bet there's a good chance one of his interns will give him the bullet points.

Here's an idea: If you find any good literature out there, dear reader, why don't you pass it along to these poor souls. Let them know that they're falling behind the times. Lujan Grisham's office's mailing address is 400 Gold Avenue SW, Ste. 680, Albuquerque, N.M. 87102. Cervantes' office gets mail at 2610 South Espina, Las Cruces, N.M. 88001.

Maybe they just don’t know what we actually want.


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