I keep catching myself quoting The Invisibles. “The world's getting more like us every day.” It's everything I've ever hoped for. In 2016, a poll conducted by Research & Polling, Inc. found that 61 percent of New Mexicans were in support of legalizing and taxing cannabis at the time. Earlier this year, a Pew Research Center survey found the same magic number—61 percent—of Americans support it. Longtime opponents of cannabis legalization, like former speaker of the House John Boehner, are suddenly reversing their stances.
Just last week: Former Attorney General under the Obama administration Eric Holder told a reporter for NY1 that he'd never seen any evidence that cannabis was addictive and that the plant should be removed from the list of scheduled drugs under the Controlled Substances Act.
This goes a long way toward explaining the leniency shown to states like Colorado and Washington during the Obama years—when Holder was in charge of policy toward federal enforcement of cannabis laws. During the interview, he said states should be allowed to “experiment.” He referenced his time as attorney general, saying his department gave the states a chance to be “laboratories” to test the idea out by not interfering. “I think if you allow the states to experiment,” he said, “we'll ultimately come to a national consensus about what it is and what to do in regard to marijuana.”
Those words were most likely spoken with the knowledge that the majority of states currently have laws granting access to legal cannabis in some form—either medical or recreational—or have at least decriminalized possession. I can't speak for Holder, but I've watched the clip repeatedly with the sound off while staring into his eyes. I'm pretty sure this was a wink from the old fox in support of legalization. Exciting, because Holder said he was considering running for president in 2020 during an interview with MSNBC. And that makes me think cannabis legalization will be a major issue the next time the circus comes to town. We might even see major candidates that publicly support it.
Holder dropped some other big statements during the NY1 interview that will surely become the new favorite quote for cannabis advocates. “We need to move marijuana from Schedule I, so research can be done. It is classified now on the same level as heroin is, and clearly that is inappropriate.” It was Holder's job to uphold the laws which listed cannabis as a Schedule I drug (substances that have no accepted medical value and a potential for abuse)—quite an endorsement.
Wildest of all was his reaction to a question concerning addiction and the “negative” effects of cannabis. With a crease in his brow and a slightly dismissive tone, he answered, “Yeah, I’ve never seen any scientific evidence that points you to concerns about addiction through the use of marijuana.”
Last week, a check for $2,000 was donated to the University of New Mexico by Ultra Health and a group of producers to help fund medical cannabis research.
The money, collected through a raffle held by Ultra Health, went into a research fund started by associate professor in UNM’s Department of Psychology Doctor Jacob Vigil and assistant professor in the UNM Department of Economics Sarah See Stith, to help squeeze some needed cash into a controversial field. According to KRQE, the legal status of cannabis has made it hard to get the necessary funding required for continued scientific research on its medical efficacy.
Vigil has managed to publish studies, however, like the often cited “Associations between medical cannabis and prescription opioid use in chronic pain patients” which made headlines last year for finding that medical cannabis patients suffering from chronic pain were able to significantly reduce their use of prescribed opioids.
UNM researchers are reportedly working on studies analyzing cannabis' use for treating veterans suffering from PTSD and cancer.
WalletHub recently published a report ranking New Mexico the state with the sixth-largest drug problem in the nation.
The report compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia, comparing metrics like number of opioid pain reliever prescriptions, overdose deaths per capita, number of substance abuse treatment facilities and percentage off teenage users, among others. The report considered “illicit” substances (cannabis being among them) as well as prescription drugs. According to the report, New Mexico ranked third highest for percentage of teenage drug users, and fifth for highest number of teens offered illicit drugs at school. We were also ranked number 13 for drug overdose deaths per capita and number 28 for both opioid pain reliever prescriptions per capita.
Data for the report came from a number of sources, including the US Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the DEA and the FBI.