Alibi V.28 No.24 • June 13-19, 2019 

Baked Goods

Hope Abounds

NM expands medical program

Baked Goods logo
Rob M.

After years of cajoling, haranguing and begging, the state has finally heard the cries of advocates and expanded its medical cannabis program to include opioid addiction in its list of qualifying conditions. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told the Associated Press that the policy change was long overdue. No kidding. The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board has only been suggesting it for years and years.

It's likely the direct result of the regime change. The board was completely ignored during the last administration by then-Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher—who always seemed annoyed by the fact that she had to tolerate the program in the first place. Our current secretary, Kathyleen Kunkel, however, appears more than willing to accommodate patients and advocates. Lujan Grisham promised reforms to the medical program during her ride into office, and it seems she's making good on it.

In case you forgot: New Mexico is still at the forefront in the cutting-edge market of opioid addiction, boasting stats like 16.7 opioid overdose-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. You can compare that to 14.6 deaths per 100,000 people for the national average. If your math isn't so good, that adds up to an epidemic.

Some of the most promising research connecting cannabis to a reduction in opioid abuse has come out of the University of New Mexico—making the wait for a policy change make even less sense. Jacob Vigil, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, and Sarah See Stith, assistant professor in the Department of Economics, published a study in 2017 that made media waves for finding a correlation between enrollment in the state's medical cannabis program and opioid cessation or reduction.

Hopefully, that means we'll see this policy change translate into tangible results.

Also added to the list of qualifying conditions were Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorder and three degenerative neurological disorders. A broader recommendation to include general substance abuse disorders was denied by Kunkel for being too broad in definition.

”First THC Death” Reported in Louisiana

A Louisiana coroner is blaming a woman's death on an overdose of THC concentrate. St. John the Baptist Parish Coroner Christy Montegut told The New Orleans Advocate that a woman who died in February fell victim to THC exposure. “It looked like it was all THC because her autopsy showed no physical disease or afflictions that were the cause of death. There was nothing else identified in the toxicology—no other drugs, no alcohol,” Montegut told reporters. “There was nothing else.” A toxicology report said she had 8.4 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

This is pretty shocking news, since it's been pretty well established that the amount of THC needed to constitute a lethal dose would be somewhere in the neighborhood of impossible to consume. The University of Michigan's Mind the Science Gap blog says the LD50—lethal dose for half of the population—of delta 9-THC (the chemical that converts to THC when burned) is theoretically between 15 and 70 grams. This would need to be consumed at one time, mind you. The Schaffer Library of Drug Policy says: “According to which US Government authority you want to believe, the lethal dose of marijuana is either about one-third your body weight, or about 1,500 pounds, consumed all at once.”

This has led many to question Montegut's conclusion. Keith Humphreys, former senior policy adviser at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, also spoke to the Advocate, saying it would be highly unlikely for an overdose to occur for the first time, considering the number of people currently using cannabis in the US.

“We know from really good survey data that Americans use cannabis products billions of times a year, collectively. Not millions of times, but billions of times a year,” said Humphreys. “So, that means that if the risk of death was one in a million, we would have a couple thousand cannabis overdose deaths a year.” He blamed the coroner's inability to find another cause of death on “some imperfection” in the assessment.

But Montegut says he believes “this lady must have vaped this THC oil and got a high level in her system and (it) made her stop breathing—like a respiratory failure.” He said the woman's lungs were “totally healthy.”

However, a police report obtained by local CBS affiliate 4WWL stated that the woman's boyfriend told authorities that she had gone to the ER three weeks earlier for a chest infection. She'd been given a prescription for Mucinex and Robitussin D.

Was it a real THC overdose case? I wouldn't count on it, dear reader.

Strain Corner

This week found me at Seven Clover (3800 Central Ave. SE), grabbing a gram of Alien Brownies (THC: 21.3%, CBD: 1.75%—$13/gram). This strange hybrid smelled sweet and minty and tasted like chocolate cake batter. It went down smooth, and the effects creeped up slowly as I finished a bowl.

I noticed a distinct relaxation happening in my neck and shoulders and experienced the feeling that everything was slowing down. I wasn't locked to the couch or drowsy, but I did feel disassociated and dreamy. This strain would be great for those suffering from anxiety or tension, and it seemed like the perfect cap for a stressful day.

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