Here comes the rough new decade, slouching toward us like some lumbering beast. And just in time for the always-incoming apocalypse, President Donald Trump—the Great Dragon—is reminding everybody that our freedoms exist only so far as he sees fit.
Late last month, the hungry dragon attached a signing statement to HR 1158, the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020.” The law authorizes appropriations to fund certain federal agencies through September 30 next year. Generally, when a president attaches a signing statement, it's to flag provisions of laws that they believe could impede on their executive authority. This one specifically called out a provision that protected most states with medical cannabis laws—not including South Dakota, Idaho, Kansas and Nebraska—from federal intervention.
The statement reads: “Division B, section 531 of the Act provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds made available under this Act to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories. My Administration will treat this provision consistent with the President’s constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.”
In English: I don't care what Congress says. Marijuana's illegal and I can shut it down anytime I want.
Before you lose your head, though, remember that this is the third time he's signed a statement along these lines. So far, he's kept his mitts off. Considering the current state of his career, he'll probably be too busy fending off the dogs to try moving against cannabis. And he's spoken vaguely in support of states' rights concerning cannabis legalization on numerous occasions in the past.
But who knows? I've been told I'm an incorrigible optimist. And it wasn't that many weeks ago that the Trump administration was trying to implement new rules that would deny asylum to migrants with misdemeanor marijuana offenses on their records. It seems like his opinion of cannabis swings with his mood.
A recent survey found that almost three-quarters of New Mexico voters support the legalization of recreational cannabis.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the governor's cannabis working group commissioned Change Research to conduct the poll. It found that 73 percent of 1,055 New Mexicans support the sale of recreational cannabis for adults over 21 in their own communities. Only 39 percent said they would purchase it themselves. The poll was carried out online and was conducted between Nov. 26 and Dec. 2. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percent.
According to a similar poll conducted by the Albuquerque Journal, only 61 percent of voters supported legalization in 2016.
“This is not a stoner-led movement,” said Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis, head of the governor's cannabis task force. “This is real people who see an opportunity that we’re not taking advantage of.”
The task force gave the governor its list of recommendations related to future cannabis legalization legislation in October. Last month, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told KOAT that legalization was at the top of her priorities for the 2020 legislative session. “It's a complicated piece of legislation, and I think it's going to be a tough piece of legislation to pass, but I committed to putting it on my call,” Lujan Grisham said.
Hemp producers say their first year hasn't quite panned out the way they were expecting.
Las Cruces Sun News reports that low yields and a flooded market have made returns on hemp crops significantly lower than originally predicted. More than 400 licenses to grow hemp were issued by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture this year—including 276 licenses to grow outdoors totaling 7,540 acres, and 132 licenses for indoor growers totaling 8,334,424 square feet.
New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte told reporters that the flood of applicants was more than double what the state had anticipated. “There was a challenging year in the state, and quite frankly across the country, because there were a lot of people who jumped into it and basically oversupplied what was traditionally in the market,” Witte said. Many of the new hemp farmers also appear to be inexperienced.
Some farmers reported crops with lower yields and CBD content than they were promised by seed broker, and much of the product ended up selling at a fraction of what was originally expected. Farmers have also reported coming into conflict with border patrol agents who seem to have trouble differentiating cannabis crops from hemp crops (for obvious reasons).
Despite all the problems, though, it seems as though many farmers are optimistic about next year's harvest and plan to continue producing the new crop. After all, if recreational marijuana is legalized next year, even more opportunities could open up for producers.
I would hope that some of our more astute readers out there will have noticed that the only outcry over the legalization of recreational cannabis in New Mexico seems to be coming from Far Right conservatives and medical cannabis lobby groups. I'll leave it up to you to decide what their motives could be.
The most recent grunts of disapproval have come from “medical cannabis experts” with the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Patients Advocate Alliance. They claim that legalization could threaten the availability of cannabis for patients enrolled in the state's Medical Cannabis Program.
“New Mexico as it stands just does not have the logistics for recreation,” the group's secretary, Chad Lozano, told KVIA in El Paso, Texas. “We don't have enough cannabis for everybody,” he said. “We don't have enough producers. The price to become producers is ridiculous … The way that we're going is just down the wrong path.”