It's time to blow the last decade to smithereens! Usually, I'm terrified of change. These days, I'm scared of things staying the same. Have you been listening to the current state of hip-hop? Dreadful.
Of course the future is still scary as hell. It looks like Kanye will be keeping his promise not to run for president in 2020, but he also seems to be sticking to his guns about running in 2024. I'm absolutely terrified about what the one-joke-issue voters out there will make of all this. There's a saying in the world of realpolitik: “When Kanye rises, the empire sets.” It sounded like gibberish 20 years ago, but look where we are today.
Cannabis, on the other hand, seems to be doing splendidly. It’s on a roll to win the hearts and minds of the American people in 2020, a shocking change from years gone by. A recent Pew poll found that two-thirds of the country supports legalization of recreational marijuana and 90 percent support legalization of medical cannabis. Chew on that.
In case you've been too busy watching “The Mandalorian” to keep up, here's what you missed in marijuana news last year.
According to the most recent New Mexico Department of Health statistics, there are 78,810 active patients enrolled in the state's Medical Cannabis Program. That's almost four percent of the population. You can compare that to the 66,725 patients enrolled at this time last year and the 45,374 that were enrolled at the end of 2017.
The qualifying condition for the largest portion of patients by far is post-traumatic stress—affecting over 40,000 patients. The second largest portion is taken by severe chronic pain, at over 26,000 patients.
About a third of all patients enrolled in the program reside in Bernalillo County. There are 215 out-of-state patients enrolled in the program.
“Did you say out of state?”
Read on, dear friend, read on …
Back in June, a bizarre back-and-forth started up between the NMDOH and a group of nonresidents that would ultimately lead to 215 out-of-state patients being accepted into the state's Medical Cannabis Program.
With the passage of Senate Bill 406, the medical cannabis expansion bill, a number of big changes were put on the books. One change was the wording of a phrase. A “qualified patient” was originally defined as a “resident of New Mexico,” but new wording defined it as merely a “person.”
Lawmakers said they'd changed the wording to allow for a new reciprocity program that would allow nonresidents enrolled in their own state's medical programs to partake in ours. But a group of people seemingly led by Ultra Health CEO and Arizona resident Duke Rodriguez filed a lawsuit against the department, claiming that the new language meant nonresidents should be allowed to participate in the program.
It sounds crazy, but a judge actually agreed with the plaintiffs and ordered the DOH to start issuing cards to nonresidents. Now, you might actually bump into a Texan or Arizonan while buying your meds.
The state is still trying to reverse the order, so we'll have to see how it pans out in 2020.
Senate Bill 406, “Medical Marijuana Changes,” passed into law earlier this year. We've only seen some of the changes implemented so far, but a number of improvements were made to the program and the laws governing it. It was the first major statutory change to be made to the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act since its inception in 2007.
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 who attend 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. Patients enrolled in another state's medical cannabis program are given immunity from arrest for consuming or possessing cannabis “if the quantity of cannabis does not exceed the limit identified by department rule.” It also bars employers from taking “an adverse employment action against an applicant or an employee based on conduct allowed under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act.”
Under the new law, anyone caught with less than a half-ounce of cannabis or paraphernalia in their possession will be subject to a $50 fine and issued a penalty assessment (which is not considered a criminal conviction). First-time offenders with more than half an ounce but less than an ounce will be found guilty of a misdemeanor and punished with a fine of not less than $50 and not more than $100 or by imprisonment for no more than 15 days. First-time offenders with more than an ounce but less than eight ounces will be found guilty of a misdemeanor and punished with a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment for less than a year. Anything more than that will be a fourth-degree felony.
Just as quickly as the mania came, it seems to have passed again. A slew of vaping-related lung injuries were cropping up all over the nation back in October, frightening parents of teens and giving tobacco lobbyists ammo against the vaping industry.
Turns out, the culprit was an additive called Vitamin E acetate. Unscrupulous black market dealers were cutting THC oil cartridges with the stuff and have caused a total of 2,409 hospitalizations. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed 52 deaths in 26 states and the District of Columbia as a result of vaping the bootleg cartridges.
In New Mexico, the DOH has confirmed 20 cases of vaping-related injuries. All of them were connected to illegal cartridges obtained through the black market. No legitimate cartridges made by licensed producers were implicated.
After the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp was distinguished from “marijuana” and removed from the list of controlled substances. A big push behind the move came from investors who wanted to capitalize on the CBD market and wished to produce hemp-derived CBD products.
This all seemed like a perfect plan until the federal Food and Drug Administration reminded everyone that CBD is the active ingredient in Epidiolex, a pharmaceutical drug used to treat a rare form of epilepsy. According to US law, no active ingredients used in pharmaceutical drugs can be sold over the counter. That meant that the only CBD products that could legally be sold in the US were topicals—no consumables like food or supplements. The FDA is currently in the process of setting up regulations that will bypass this rule and allow over-the-counter CBD products to be sold.
For the most part, the feds have kept their mitts off of CBD companies, but they have sent warning letters to those making specific health claims.
Several senators recently pressed the FDA to get a move on, and it seems like everybody but the agency is chomping at the bit for a resolution in 2020.
New Mexico is still being sluggish about legalizing recreational cannabis, but we're crossing our fingers that 2020 is our year. In the meantime, recreational cannabis is legal in 11 states and Washington DC for adults over 21. Medical cannabis is legal in 33 states.
According to Forbes, there's a chance we'll see up to six other states legalize in 2020 (other than New Mexico), including New York, New Jersey, Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Montana. Not all of them have legislation ready to go, but the public support seems to be there.