We're deep enough into the 21st century that it doesn't even feel novel anymore, and we're still getting shafted in an area that should have been fixed decades ago. Cannabis is still illegal. It's preposterous, but it doesn't even feel weird. We're all used to it. I'm bored just saying it.
Apparently our lawmakers still need more time to think about it.
The recreational cannabis legalization bill, Senate Bill 115, was unceremoniously shoved to the side last week. I heard they took it to a quiet spot out behind the Roundhouse—somewhere where its cries wouldn't be heard—and strangled it like a mad dog. The tattered bill was seen tumbling lifelessly along the gutters of Santa Fe later that evening. If you can't tell: It still bugs me.
I've been asked what went wrong, and I still refuse to guess. I have my own conspiracy theories, but I'll be tucking them away for now. It's likely that the more vanilla explanations are right, anyway. Some aspects of the bill rubbed people the wrong way, after all.
For instance: If it had passed, the bill would have made it illegal for individuals not enrolled in the state's Medical Cannabis Program to grow marijuana plants. Imagine the state criminalizing growing your own tomatoes—it seems crazy. Placing limits of any kind on growing marijuana seems ridiculous until you consider the the need to control potential black market activities (made possible by the drug's illegal status elsewhere). But outright barring law-abiding citizens from growing a plant naturally is beyond strange when you stop and think about it.
I still think any bill that will free those who have been incarcerated for minor cannabis crimes should be pushed through, no matter what flaws it has. It's easy for me to hop on Twitter, take a dump on our leaders for not passing the bill and go about my day like everything's groovy. For the poor wretches sitting behind bars over a joint right now, the news was probably devastating.
Oh well! Maybe next year. I'm sure that will comfort them in their jail cells.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham doesn't seem ready to back down yet, anyway. She told reporters that legalization is “inevitable,” and I'm inclined to agree. It only took a few million years for that first fish to crawl up on the beach and take a nervous breath. I just don't want us to be like his neighbor, the nervous fish that waited another million “to see how it pans out.”
The madness has finally come to an end. The New Mexico Department of Health is no longer required to issue medical cannabis cards to non-residents. Last week, the governor signed a measure that once again requires medical cannabis program applicants to be residents of New Mexico.
That means at least 613 out-of-state patients are probably pretty bummed this week. But I think I'm pretty confident in saying that we all expected this to come. The argument was made last year that because of a wording change made to a medical expansion bill that defined a patient as a “person” instead of a “resident of New Mexico,” the Medical Cannabis Program had to be opened up to nonresidents. A judge repeatedly ruled in favor of this interpretation, but the state wasn't having it—probably because it was turning our program into a quick-stop pot supplier for out-of-staters. The bill's authors repeatedly told reporters that it wasn't their intention to open the program to nonresidents, but that was neither here nor there.
And before anyone starts complaining about non-resident visitors in need of their medication, keep in mind that the new reciprocity rule kicks in July 1, allowing individuals enrolled in other states' medical cannabis programs to make purchases at New Mexico dispensaries. It will still be illegal to cross state lines with cannabis, though.
A bill that would have potentially protected Native cannabis patients living on tribal land from federal prosecution stalled on the house floor.
Under Senate Bill 271, “Tribe and Pueblo Medical Marijuana Agreements,” the New Mexico Department of Health would have been authorized to enter into intergovernmental agreements with tribes and pueblos that would have allowed tribal groups to come up with their own medical cannabis programs.
This would have gone a long way in protecting patients from federal scrutiny. While a patient is able to purchase and possess medical cannabis on state land, the moment they enter federal trust lands, they are considered a criminal.
Apparently that will continue for at least another year.
A bill that would have allowed research facilities to grow or buy cannabis for research purposes was also put into the ground before the session was out.
House Bill 334 would have established a Cannabis Control Division to regulate licensing for research facilities. The facilities would be allowed to purchase and cultivate their own cannabis to be used in much needed studies. Currently, scientists can get authorization to grow cannabis for research, but they can only use plants provided by the Drug Enforcement Agency—plants that are well known to be subpar in quality and useless for these purposes.
So don't expect any of that research that our dear lawmakers keep crowing for, since they keep missing opportunities to make it happen.