Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a number of pro-cannabis bills into law earlier this month. One of the most notable was SB 406, “Medical Marijuana Changes,” which should improve many of the issues patients and producers have been complaining about for years (and might raise a few new ones, as was reported in our most recent issue of the Leaflet newsletter—subscribe now, ya' so-and-sos). It's the first major statutory change that's been made to the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act since its inception in 2007.
The law incorporates changes that were called for from a number of other bills that were considered this year. Under SB 406, the renewal period for registration in the medical program has been extended from one year to three. Students enrolled in the program and attending public schools are now allowed to be administered medical cannabis at school. THC concentration in “cannabis products” will no longer be limited by the Department of Health. It also allows patients enrolled in another state's medical cannabis program to be immune from arrest for consuming or possessing cannabis “if the quantity of cannabis does not exceed the limit identified by department rule.” There are a few more changes being instituted, and it behooves any patient to give it a thorough reading.
What especially excited me was the protections given to employees and job applicants enrolled in the program. Under the new law, employers are not allowed to “take an adverse employment action against an applicant or an employee based on conduct allowed under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act.” This rule doesn't apply to jobs deemed “safety-sensitive” or in cases where an employer would lose a “monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law or federal regulations.” Employers are still protected when disciplining or firing an employee who is found to be impaired or under the influence of marijuana on the job, however.
This is a huge deal, and I'm surprised there isn't more being said about it. In my personal life, the rampant use of preemployment THC drug testing has been a massive barrier that has restricted my employment options significantly over the last two decades. This change is bound to positively impact the employment market in New Mexico, since employers will have a larger and potentially better workforce to select from, and job-seekers will have more employment opportunities. It's also been noted by professional analysts at Mondaq that employees enrolled in the medical cannabis program are likely entitled to the disability anti-discrimination provisions of the New Mexico Human Rights Act and federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to The New York Times, the New York City Council just approved a measure that incredibly bars employers from drug screening applicants in any form. They are still allowed to ask an employee to submit a drug test if they appear to be under the influence on the job, though. And specific safety-sensitive industries like emergency services and construction will continue drug screening. The law will not apply to state or federal employees working in the city, either. If it's signed into law, the bill will take effect in one year.
While not directly regulating drug testing policy like New York, our new law's provisions echo the sentiment, as do those enacted in Maine. But companies are apparently jumping ahead in the script and reforming their policies early, prompting the Los Angeles Times to carry this headline last week: “In the age of legal marijuana, many employers drop ‘zero tolerance’ drug tests.” The article claims that retailers are either not testing applicants or choosing to look the other way on cannabis use. Will wonders never cease?
If this becomes a fad, the effects will be incredible. Retail and service industry giants tend to make standardized employment policies to avoid headaches when employees transfer from state to state. And according to personal finance publication The Balance, the retail market made up two-thirds of the US gross domestic product in 2016. Think about that for a hot minute.
Last week I paid a visit to Southwest Wellness Center (9132 Montgomery Blvd. NE Ste. D). This dispensary has some of the freshest, stickiest and most potent flower in town, so I treated myself to a handful of strains. A budtender by the name of Brandon indulged my weed nerdiness and allowed me to take a whiff of every strain on the shelf. We also had a pretty fruitful conversation in which he told me how to enhance edibles by consuming fatty foods prior to dosing. It left me feeling very optimistic about the industry in general.
I picked out a couple of rank strains by smell and let Brandon choose the last one. He suggested Unicorn Poop (THC: 26.34%—$14/gram) and I pretended I wasn't agreeing just because of the name.
Back home, I loaded a bowl. The trichomes stuck to my fingers, leaving them tacky and smelling like lawn clippings. This hybrid tastes sour and tangy, with a sharp throat hit. The first noticeable effect hit me behind the eyes, and I experienced a sensation akin to relaxation in my face—particularly around my eyes and sinuses. It was a novel and pleasant feeling, so it absorbed much of my attention during the moments immediately following my first hit.
Later, I noticed a deep sense of well-being and a certain level of pleasurable numbness had spread throughout my body. I'd been too distracted to register it earlier. Seconds were passing like drifting glaciers and my every movement was slow and measured. I turned on the TV and watched two mindless talking heads on CNN. I tried to ignore the words coming out of their mouths and read the secret intentions behind their mannerisms. They were inscrutable.
The joy of telling people I smoked “poop” should not be understated.