A survey of 420 New Mexicans conducted by Research & Polling Inc. in March, said that 63 percent of adults polled would support a bill to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis sales to adults—up from 61 percent reported in 2016. It also found that the number of people “strongly supportive” of legalization has grown by six percentage points. Shocking news, to be sure.
New Mexicans are far from stupid, and we're well aware of the already booming medical cannabis industry (the Department of Health reported 52,260 patients and 6,693 personal production license-holders at the end of April). The idea of opening the doors to any industry that will pump cash into this dried out husk seems mighty tempting—and we're mighty thirsty.
The legalization of cannabis is becoming a major talking point in the race for governor, and while it's easy to blow off—to remind yourself that there's no such thing as a one-issue race—it's important to remember that this issue addresses concerns that are immediate to many New Mexicans: personal freedom and low coffers.
As of this writing, the primaries have yet to happen. We know Steve Pearce, who already said he wouldn't support legalization, is running unopposed for the GOP, but our Democratic candidate has yet to be determined. Of the three running, only Jeff Apodaca fully supports cannabis legalization. Joseph Cervantes isn't interested in legalizing at all and Michelle Lujan Grisham has been soft on the issue, calling for more research.
But whoever is now running against Pearce had better start thinking hard about their stance. His anti-cannabis platform has surely turned off a portion of the voters out there, and an opponent taking up the pro-cannabis banner would have no trouble drawing them in.
I still won't hold my breath, though. This place nurtures my cynicism.
A number of new studies support the idea that cannabis can be used to treat opioid dependency, despite the numerous concerns voiced by politicians of late.
The Tilray Observational Patient Study (TOPS), reportedly the largest national longitudinal medical cannabis study ever performed in Canada, surveyed 573 medical cannabis patients who are currently using Tilray products. The study found that 51 percent of patients who admitted to using opioids regularly when they enrolled in the survey reported complete cessation of opioid use within the first 6 months of cannabis treatment. Philippe Lucas, vice president, Patient Research and Access at Tilray, and lead investigator of TOPS said the data “suggests that cannabis may play a harm-reduction role in the ongoing opioid dependence and overdose crisis.”
In May, the online journal The Mental Health Clinician published a study that showed a number of patients enrolled in New York's medical cannabis program saw improvements in their quality of life, a reduction in pain and a reduction in opioid use within the first three months of enrollment.
And JAMA released a report last month studying data collected from Medicare that found that in states where cannabis is legally obtainable, the number of opioid prescriptions was reduced by 3.7 million daily doses. Although the findings don't prove anything, they appear to show a correlation between cannabis availability and opioid use reduction.
A number of employers are dropping the practice of drug testing applicants for cannabis. According to Lexology, judges in three court cases last year sided with employees who were either passed over at the hiring stage or fired from their position because of failed cannabis tests, despite their enrollment in legally recognized medical cannabis programs.
In Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts allowed an employee who was turned away from a job after one day of working because she failed her drug test to sue the hiring company, saying she had a claim for handicap discrimination. The case is currently moving through the state's lower courts.
In Connecticut, a federal district court blocked a company's motion to dismiss a lawsuit in which an employee was similarly turned away following a pre-employment drug screening. According to the decision, the state's Palliative Use of Marijuana Act protects patients enrolled in the program from employer discrimination. The case is now being litigated.
And in New York, an Administrative Law Judge ruled that the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission could not revoke a driver's TLC license because they tested positive for THC if they were enrolled in the state's medical cannabis program, as the rules only bar the use of illegal drugs.
Christopher S. Rugaber, an economics writer for the Associated Press, recently instructed small business owners to reexamine their drug policies, since they could cause legal headaches in the future. His advice: If you aren't running a business that's regulated by the federal Department of Transportation, is a defense contractor or involves the use of tools which cause safety concerns, you’re safer just dropping the tests altogether.