Like sands in the hourglass, et cetera et cetera. Before you knew what was happening, another year done snuck up and bit you on the butt. Now you can expect to be writing the wrong date for at least a few months. If you're me, it will last until sometime in the summer.
Despite the gray fog that seemed to steal 2018 from many of us, strange leaps occurred in the weird world of cannabis that seem incredible now. In November 2017, the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program said more than 45,000 patients were card-carrying marijuana patients. A year later, and the number has rocketed to over 66,000. The US Census Bureau estimated the population of our state to be around 2,095,000 people last July, meaning over 3 percent of the population is enrolled.
And if that wasn't enough numbers for you: The qualifying condition that New Mexican patients are suffering from the most is post-traumatic stress—with over 33,000 patients, followed closely by chronic pain—with over 22,000 patients. There are over 7,500 personal production licenses in circulation at this moment. The vast majority of patients live in Bernalillo County—around 22,000.
Yes, dear reader, I understand that those numbers were very boring, but they were also very important. You can tell a few things about this data. For one: The jump in patients between 2016 and 2017 was around 20,000 people, similar to the rise that happened last year. Patients complaining of PTS or chronic pain have also increased at comparable rates over the last three years like clockwork.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, lifetime prevalence of PTS among adults in the US and Canada affects around 6.8 percent of the population, based on data from the early oughts. More recent figures estimate it to be upward of 9.2 percent. A 2012 report from the National Institute of Health estimated the number of Americans suffering from severe chronic pain to be around 11.2 percent of the population.
So while patients seem to be applying to the program at a staggering pace, statistically, only a few of those suffering from the state's list of qualifying conditions are seeking treatment through cannabis. The reasons for that are legion, but it usually comes down to ignorance about cannabis' efficacy and a lack of personally delivered anecdotes. People want to hear about it from someone they trust, not a reporter or a scientist.
One thing I've noticed in the past few years of writing this column is that people are loathe to admit they use cannabis in polite company—even in today's free-wheeling marketplace of ideas. I'm a transplant from the South, and I've been shocked to find how rare it is to meet someone in Albuquerque who doesn't use marijuana (legally or not). Meanwhile, we all keep playing this weird game where we can only admit it after we've checked over our shoulders and lowered our voices to a whisper.
It's a new year. If you actually believe in the transformative and curative properties of cannabis, stop feeling ashamed and hiding your use from everybody. The story of your personal experience might the last puzzle piece that makes someone take the plunge themselves.
According to a report from the Cato Institute, the average Border Patrol agent between ports of entry confiscated 78 percent less marijuana in fiscal year 2018 than in 2013. The street value of all drugs (not just marijuana) confiscated by Border Patrol in the same time reportedly fell by 70 percent. The author of the report, David Bier suggests a correlation with the introduction of state-level cannabis legalization in 2014.
He also points out that while surveillance technologies were improved upon and the number of border agents was doubled between 2003 and 2009, no significant drops in the rates of confiscated drugs were seen until legalization occurred. And while drug smugglers have compensated for the drop in demand for black market marijuana with a rise in the transportation of harder drugs, Bier says the markets aren't even close, and the cartels are losing funds. This should hardly be shocking, since marijuana advocates have been crowing about it for years: If you legalize cannabis, then the cartels south of us will dry up.
Bier argues against the construction of a border wall or an increase in Border Patrol agents as deterrents against drug smuggling and suggests more progressive drug laws in the US.
A new study is claiming that THC can affect sperm cells and might cause negative changes in a potential baby's genetic programming.
Researchers from Duke University compared the sperm from two groups of rats—one who had been dosed with THC, and one that had not—in a study published last month in the journal Epigenetics. They also compared the sperm from 24 men who used marijuana weekly and a group that had never used it more than 10 times in their life and not within 6 months of the study.
In both rats and humans, the scientists found evidence that methyl groups (chemicals that help program genes) were affected by THC level. The chemicals appeared to affect two pathways: one that helps organs reach their full size and one that suppresses the growth of cancerous tumors.
The authors admitted that the scope of the study was very limited. They said the goal was only to see if the presence of THC had any effect at all. Now they know it does, and much more research will have to be conducted before anyone can say for sure what the effects are.
The long and short of it: Be careful about where you put your THC-filled sperm until we have more data.