Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Policy Letter to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham Formally Requesting Cannabis Legislation for 2020



Safe Access New Mexico 
Jason Barker
Albuquerque, NM 87109
SafeAccessNewMexico@gmail.com


Monday, October 21st 2019


Office of the Governor
The Honorable Michelle Lujan Grisham
Governor of New Mexico
490 Old Santa Fe Trail
Room 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501
(via email and USPS mail)

Dear Governor Lujan Grisham,

As a constituent, I wanted to Thank you all your hard work in Santa Fe leading our state and for taking the time from your busy day to read my letter. My name is Jason Barker, I’m a medical cannabis patient, advocate for medical cannabis, and registered voter.

The start of the Second Session of the 54th Legislature is just around the corner as 2019 draws to a close. With the Second Session of the 54th Legislature being in an even-numbered year of 2020, the Legislature is limited to dealing with budgetary matters, bills that deal with issues raised by special messages from you as Governor, and bills vetoed in the previous session.

I am writing you to formally request that you and your Office please consider putting the following proposed legislative items on the call for the Second Session of the 54th Legislature with a special message from your Office.

Please keep the focus of any cannabis policy from 2019 and 2020 by the 54th on the medical cannabis program and protecting the program like you had promised the medical cannabis program participants and their families while campaigning to be Governor and as mentioned in the 30 Day Leadership-In-Action-Initiatives. “As governor, I’ll raise the cap on medical cannabis plants and increase access to licenses for producers so every patient has the access to medical cannabis they need. #nmpol”

And: ‘Gov. candidates disagree on medical cannabis at school’ | https://www.abqjournal.com/1240091/gov-candidates-disagree-on-parcc-other-education-issues.html

The medical cannabis program participants and their families are hoping your Office fulfills these promises.

All three medical cannabis laws need to be addressed:
1. Medical Cannabis in School Law that was improperly enacted by the Public Education Department (SB-204). School Personnel (including school nurses) need to be directed in law to serve as the primary choice for the administration of the medicine.
Link to: Social Equity and New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis in Schools Law | http://www.cannabisnewsjournal.co/2019/09/social-equity-and-new-mexicos-medical.html


2. "Adequate Supply" and "Purpose of the act" in the original The Lynn And Erin Compassionate Use Act are not being provided to the near 80,000 medical cannabis patients. Reducing the program plant count from 2,500 to 1,750 does not provide “adequate supply”.
Link to: Safe Access New Mexico Public Comment on Proposed Rule Changes for New Mexico's Medical Cannabis Program (MCP) | http://www.cannabisnewsjournal.co/2019/07/safe-access-new-mexico-public-comment.html


3. Issuing medical cannabis cards for those who qualify from Medical Cannabis Changes law (SB-406). And now Patients/Caregivers are reporting a 6-7 week wait for medical cannabis cards (new/renewals) when the state has 35 days or less to provide them. 

Please Amend SB-406 to its original introduced format to add substance use disorder into the MCP, for which the applicant or qualified patient is currently undergoing treatment for the applicant's or qualified patient's condition; And allows any Qualifying Medical Provider per department rule to add any other chronic or persistent medical symptom that either substantially limits a person’s ability to conduct one or more of major life activities as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or if not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the person’s safety, physical, or mental health; as approved by the department.
Link to this Proposed Legislation: http://www.cannabisnewsjournal.co/p/proposed-2019-nm-legislation-act.html


4. AN ACT: Veterinary Medicine Access To The Medical Cannabis Program
Started in 2019 by Senator Ortiz y Pino as SB-658, Mr Chris Pommier in LCS also helped draft what they did.

This legislation will allow cannabis to be discussed for medical purposes on animals. This bill will not allow a veterinary practice to sell or administer cannabis.

Passage into law would then enable Veterinary Medical Doctors to recommend medical cannabis and complete the necessary paperwork as required by the state’s medical cannabis law, Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, 2007.
Link to this Proposed Legislation: http://www.cannabisnewsjournal.co/p/an-act-veterinary-medical-cannabis.html


5. Reforming the structure of the state’s legislature. Reforming our State Legislature structure to a hybrid-style legislature.

Link to the Proposed Legislation: http://www.cannabisnewsjournal.co/p/proposed-2019-nm-legislation.html


As Governor, please please please first and foremost start talking about fixing the medical cannabis program to allow Safe Access to Medical Cannabis at Schools and end the discrimination there that children are facing.

Respectfully,

Jason Barker
Americans For Safe Access
Safe Access New Mexico 




[ About Safe Access New Mexico and Jason Barker: He is an advocate for Safe Access New Mexico, a Chapter of Americans For Safe Access; a freelance writer for Cannabis News Journal; and a medical cannabis patient in New Mexico.

Safe Access New Mexico’s advocacy has resulted in new health conditions added to the medical cannabis program in 2018-2019, 5 of those new health conditions are from the Petitions submitted to the Dept. of Health for Safe Access New Mexico.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (Dec. 2018)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (June 2019
Three Degenerative Neurological Disorders: Friedreich’s Ataxia, Lewy Body Disease, and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (June 2019)

Jason lives in Albuquerque with his dog, Tecumseh, who has a very severe case of canine structural epilepsy. Jason’s work has focused solely on medical cannabis issues, decriminalization of cannabis, hemp policy, and does not work on legalization of cannabis for non-medical purposes or other illicit drug issues.

*Mr. Barker is not paid or employed in the medical cannabis industry nor does he have any financial interest in the medical cannabis industry or in a future recreational cannabis industry.]

Governor’s Legalization Work Group Recommendations Will Devastate The States Medical Cannabis Program

For Immediate Release:


Safe Access New Mexico 
Jason Barker
Albuquerque, NM 87109
SafeAccessNewMexico@gmail.com

www.cannabisnewsjournal.co
www.safeaccessnow.org

Governor’s Legalization Work Group Recommendations Will Devastate The States Medical Cannabis Program


Tuesday, October 22nd 2019
Albuquerque -- The Governor’s Legalization Work Group, on October 16 2019, provided Governor Lujan Grisham recommendations for potential recreational cannabis legalization in 2020. The group’s report includes a very serious fatal flaw that will devastate the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program.

The Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommends adopting a totally new model for a joint medical-adult use program, on page 9 of the Working Groups report. No other state has a model like this. And there is a very good reason why no other state has a model like that, as it will ruin any medical cannabis program in any state. Just as Americans For Safe Access Policy Position says, recreational cannabis use and medical cannabis use only have the criminal justice system in common.

Issues such as access, police harassment, and the price and quality of medicine will still be relevant to the patient community despite the adoption of a policy of legalization for recreational use. The federal refusal to recognize the medical efficacy of cannabis causes more harm and difficulty for patients than any failure by local or state governments to adopt policies of legalization of cannabis for recreational use. Any system of regulation should not be built on the backs of current medical cannabis laws. And that is what the Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommends to do in New Mexico. [https://www.safeaccessnow.org/asa_medical_marijuana_policy_position]

A joint medical-adult use program will result in the destruction of the medical cannabis program because it’s regulation and supply chain are not designed for a joint program.

The medical cannabis program has 34 licensed producers and each one is currently allowed to grow up to 1,750 cannabis plants. According to medical cannabis producer Ultra Health, only 12 of the 34 licensed producers have the maximum 1,750 plants. Most other producers have 1,000 plants and some only 500 plants. Combined, the 34 producers in New Mexico paid nearly $4 million for only 40,000 plants.

The Medical Cannabis Program, as of the end of Sept. 2019, has 77,168 active participants. Those 40,000 cannabis plants are not enough to provide adequate supply for the medical cannabis program.

The proposed Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommendation will take all of those same 34 Licensed Medical Cannabis Producers and “Dual License” them as a Recreational Cannabis Producer too.

The Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommendation then takes the same 59,500 cannabis plants (intended by law for the Medical Cannabis Program) for the Recreational Program too.

The Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommendation even dedicates two-thirds of all cannabis stock is for sale to recreational consumers and then says one-third of cannabis stock is reserved for the medical cannabis patients.

So that means: 39,669 (or 2/3) cannabis plants are for recreational sales and 19,839 (or 1/3) cannabis plants are for the Medical Cannabis Program which has 80,000 registered participants. That is clearly not enough for the medical cannabis program. Doing this will kill the current medical cannabis program.

The Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommendation forces all the near 80,000 registered participants in the medical cannabis program to get their medicine from a recreational cannabis dispensary (if ⅔ of a dispensary stock is for recreational sales then it is a recreational dispensary) and even worse, the Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommendation does not provide for any (not even one) safe access points for stand-alone medical cannabis dispensaries serving only medical cannabis patients - thus this would make New Mexico the only state to force medical cannabis patients to get medicine at a recreational cannabis dispensary.



In every other state with a medical cannabis program, after recreational cannabis legalization laws went into effect ALL of those state medical cannabis programs have suffered...recreational cannabis legalization has not benefited any state’s medical cannabis program to date.

Even our neighbor to the north, in Colorado’s medical cannabis program has seen over a 19% decline in participation in recent years. And Oregon had over 400 medical cannabis dispensary locations before legalization there, after legalization passed the state of Oregon has 2 medical cannabis dispensaries currently.

There is no need for the state to hijack and take away the current infrastructure from the current medical cannabis program, by making medical cannabis producers “dual licensed” to be a recreational producer. It needs to be done separately in the bill and the recreational cannabis stores need to be separate from the medical cannabis program.

Remember it took Supreme Court Judge Thomson, when serving on the bench as a District Court Judge to order the Department of Health to raise the Licensed Producers Plant Count because the state has not been able to provide the patients of the medical cannabis program adequate supply of cannabis to use. For several years now the state’s medical cannabis program has failed to provide adequate supply and now state lawmakers want to take away even more of that cannabis supply from the medical program for a recreational law like proposed by the Governor’s Working Group?

Take for example this Missouri Medical Cannabis Report done this year, they recommend that the new Missouri medical cannabis program will need 2,800 flowering cannabis plants per producer to serve and estimated 25,000 patients by 15 - 20 different growers. New Mexico only allows 1,750 cannabis plants per medical cannabis producer.
[https://health.mo.gov/safety/medical-marijuana/pdf/mu-market-study.pdf]

That example alone shows that the Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommendation for a totally new model for a joint medical-adult use programs will not work due to not having enough “adequate supply” of cannabis plants to grow.

That Missouri report also shows how Mr. Rodriguez, from Ultra Health, is right in doing his lawsuit to help patients about the plant count shortage hurting “adequate supply” for New Mexico. As the change made by NM Health Secretary Kunkel, in changing the plant count in August from 2,500 to 1,750 cannabis plants, does not allow the medical cannabis program to have “adequate supply”as required by law.

This will be the ninth year that New Mexico lawmakers will try to legalize recreational cannabis and every year that has interfered with the medical program law and operation due to the fact of how these attempts at recreational cannabis legislation have taken up a lot more legislative time when compared to any medical cannabis bills filed over the past 8 years. Valuable legislative time wasted during the floor sessions, time in committees and when out of session time spent with interim committees and meetings about recreational cannabis as compared to legislative time spent on the medical cannabis program in the legislature in the last 8 years.

If lawmakers in New Mexico are going to take on the Failed War on Drugs then finish what you started with Medical Cannabis.

Like maybe focus on how the Medical Cannabis in Schools law passed this year is being ignored by the PED and all the Schools keeping kids who are medical cannabis patients from being able to attend their school. [http://www.cannabisnewsjournal.co/2019/09/social-equity-and-new-mexicos-medical.html]

Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis should have been working on the medical cannabis in schools law and policy with APS but choose to lead the Governor’s Legalization Work Group instead of fulfilling his duties as an elected official for the City. There are school children in his district (6) that are impacted by this discrimination those kids are facing from APS. [https://www.abqjournal.com/1364958/aps-medical-pot-directive-parents-must-dose-their-kids.html]

The focus on cannabis policy in 2019 and 2020 should be on the medical cannabis program and protecting the program like Governor Lujan Grisham promised.

The state has three medical cannabis laws and all three are being ignored by Governor Lujan Grisham, the NM Health Department, and the Public Education Department.
1. "Adequate Supply" and "Purpose of the act" in the original The Lynn And Erin Compassionate Use Act.
2. Medical Cannabis in School Law that was improperly enacted by the Public Education Department (SB-204).
3. Issuing medical cannabis cards for those who qualify from Medical Cannabis Changes law (SB-406). And now Patients/Caregivers are reporting a 6-7 week wait for medical cannabis cards (new/renewals) when the state has 35 days or less to provide them (LECUA, 2007).

All that the Governor’s Legalization Working Group had to do was suggest legislation that allowed the current medical cannabis program producers to be licensed as a recreational producer by having them establish a separate retail dispensary business location (it could be right next door to a medical dispensary they own if they want) and then provide them each and additional 1,750 cannabis plants to grow at a separate location or at the same location they currently have.

Any system of regulation should not be built on the backs of current medical cannabis laws and that is exactly what the proposed Cannabis Regulation Act does, it kills the medical cannabis program.



[ About Safe Access New Mexico and Jason Barker: He is an advocate for Safe Access New Mexico, a Chapter of Americans For Safe Access; a freelance writer for Cannabis News Journal; and a medical cannabis patient in New Mexico.

Safe Access New Mexico’s advocacy has resulted in new health conditions added to the medical cannabis program in 2018-2019, 5 of those new health conditions are from the Petitions submitted to the Dept. of Health for Safe Access New Mexico.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (Dec. 2018)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (June 2019
Three Degenerative Neurological Disorders: Friedreich’s Ataxia, Lewy Body Disease, and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (June 2019)

Jason lives in Albuquerque with his dog, Tecumseh, who has a very severe case of canine structural epilepsy. Jason’s work has focused solely on medical cannabis issues, decriminalization of cannabis, hemp policy, and does not work on legalization of cannabis for non-medical purposes or other illicit drug issues.

*Mr. Barker is not paid or employed in the medical cannabis industry nor does he have any financial interest in the medical cannabis industry or in a future recreational cannabis industry.]

Saturday, October 19, 2019

NM Governor's Legalization Working Group Recommendations Will Devastate NM Medical Cannabis Program


Here is how the legalization plan proposed by the Governor's Legalization Working Group devastates the current Medical program:

The Medical Cannabis Program has 34 Licensed Producers and each one is currently allowed to grow up to 1,750 cannabis plants. If all 34 Licensed Producers grew 1,750 cannabis plants there would be 59,500 cannabis plants. The Medical Cannabis Program as of the end of Sept. 2019 has 77,168 active participants.

The proposed Recreational cannabis plan by the Governor’s Legalization Working Group will take all of those same 34 Licensed Medical Cannabis Producers and “Dual License” them as a Recreational Cannabis Producer. The Proposed Recreational cannabis plan by the Governor’s Legalization Working Group then use the same 59,500 cannabis plants (currently available for the Medical Cannabis Program) for the Recreational Program too. The proposed Recreational cannabis plan even dedicates two-thirds of all cannabis stock is for sale to recreational consumers and says one-third of cannabis stock is reserved for the medical cannabis patients.
So that means: 39,669 (or 2/3) cannabis plants are for recreational sales and 19,839 (or 1/3) cannabis plants are for the Medical Cannabis Program which has 80,000 registered participants. That is clearly not enough for the medical cannabis program.

Doing this will kill the current medical cannabis program.

It forces all the 80,000 registered participants in the medical cannabis program to get their medicine from a recreational dispensary (if ⅔ of a dispensary stock is for recreational sales then it is a recreational dispensary) and the proposed Legalization plan does not provide for any safe access points for stand-alone medical cannabis dispensaries serving only medical cannabis patients thus this would make New Mexico the only state to force medical cannabis patients to shop a recreational cannabis dispensary.

Take for example in this Missouri Medical Cannabis Report done this year, they say that Missouri will need 2,800 Flowering cannabis plants per producer to serve and estimated 25,000 patients by 15 - 20 different growers.
https://health.mo.gov/safety/medical-marijuana/pdf/mu-market-study.pdf

That example alone shows that the Legalization plan by the Governor’s Working Group won't work and that Missouri report also shows how Mr. Rodriguez from Ultra Health is right in his lawsuit about the plant count for New Mexico. As Secretary Kunkel changing the plant count from 2,500 to 1,750 does not allow the medical cannabis program to have “adequate supply”.

Remember it took Supreme Court Judge Thomson, when serving on the bench as a District Court Judge to order the Department of Health to raise the Licensed Producers Plant Count because the state has not been able to provide the patients of the medical cannabis program adequate supply of cannabis to use. For several years now the state’s medical cannabis program has failed to provide adequate supply and now state lawmakers want to take away even more of that cannabis supply from the medical program for a recreational law like proposed by the Governor’s Working Group?

And then consider this; Did the Secretary of Health provide a report from the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board supporting the Departments plant count change from 2,500 cannabis plants to 1,750 cannabis plants? Since the LECUA law states that;
“The advisory board shall issue recommendations concerning rules to be promulgated for the issuance of the registry identification cards; and recommend quantities of cannabis that are necessary to constitute an adequate supply for qualified patients and primary caregivers.”

And since the Governor’s handpicked Legalization Working Group did not include any MCAB members in its own working group membership that addressed public policy affecting “adequate supply” for the medical cannabis program, the work conducted by the Legalization Working Group pertaining to “adequate supply” with its Licensure and Licensing System proposals are invalid due to the exclusion of MCAB member representation.

We have a Governor who campaigned on protecting the medical cannabis program and it participants.

But yet, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has not spoken up about how carelessly the medical cannabis in schools law implementation was done by the Public Education Department. School started over a month ago and these medical cannabis patients are facing discrimination because the medicine they use is medical cannabis.

That also proves how this state is NOT ready for recreational cannabis legalization.

If the Governor and Legislators in New Mexico are going to take on the Failed War on Drugs - then finish what you started with Medical Cannabis.

The Governor needs to keep her campaign promises of Protecting Medical Cannabis Patient Rights and the Promise to open up licences to allow for more medical cannabis producers to enter the program.

The fact of the matter with the New Mexico medical cannabis program plant count being decreased from 2500 cannabis plants to 1750 cannabis plants, that was done as a means of price control, period. It has nothing to do with “Adequate Supply”, as the medical cannabis program law demands.

The company hired by the Department of Health to conduct an assessment of the medical cannabis plant count did so purley with a business approach and not one based on medical cannabis research for cannabis plant counts.

It is also a known fact that some Licensed Non-Profit Producers (LNPPs) in the medical cannabis program wanted the plant count of 2500 lowered - due to their fear of prices falling to fast. This was all discussed in a meeting I had on Sept. 23rd 2019 with Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Kunkel.

The purpose of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act (medical cannabis program) is to allow the beneficial use of medical cannabis in a regulated system for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments.

It says nothing in the MCP law about using price control for establishing a plant count for “adequate supply”.

A research assessment of physical and pharmacokinetic relationships in cannabis production and consumption in New Mexico hasn't ever been done in relation to Equivalency in Portion and Dosage for the medical cannabis program for establishing a plant count to provide “Adequate Supply”.

Here is one Colorado has done: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/MED%20Equivalency_Final%2008102015.pdf

The focus on cannabis policy in 2019 and 2020 should be on the medical cannabis program and protecting the program like Governor Lujan Grisham promised.

The state has three medical cannabis laws and all three are being ignored by the Governor's Office.

1. "Adequate Supply" and "Purpose of the act" in the original The Lynn And Erin Compassionate Use Act.

2. Medical Cannabis in School Law that was improperly enacted by the Public Education Department (SB-204).

3. Issuing medical cannabis cards for those who qualify from Medical Cannabis Changes law (SB-406). And now Patients/Caregivers are reporting a 6-7 week wait for medical cannabis cards (new/renewals) when the state has 35 days or less to provide them.


All that the Governor’s Legalization Working Group had to do was suggest legislation that allowed the current medical cannabis program producers to be licensed as a recreational producer by having them establish a separate retail dispensary business location (it could be right next door to a medical dispensary they own if they want) and then provide them each and additional 1,750 cannabis plants to grow at a separate location or at the same medical grow location they currently have.

Any system of regulation should not be built on the backs of current medical cannabis laws and that is exactly what the proposed Cannabis Regulation Act does, it kills the current medical cannabis program. 





Wednesday, October 16, 2019

New Mexico hits the panic button with medical cannabis vape warning label, despite facts from CDC.

“WARNING: Vaping cannabis-derived products containing THC has been associated with cases of severe lung injury, leading to difficulty breathing, hospitalization and even death”
(Emergency Rule Amendment filed by NM Health Cabinet Secretary Kunkel on Oct. 4 2019)


First, it is important to note that this illness is not caused by anything intrinsic to cannabis.
New Mexico regulators have unfairly singled out medical cannabis vape products to include a health warning, despite facts from CDC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued vaping guidance noting that "products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources...are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak" and recommending that... "persons consider refraining from using e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain nicotine."

Why has the state singled out products in the New Mexico medical cannabis program for ‘warning labels’ amidst the Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with E-Cigarette Use, or Vaping, known as Vaping-Associated Pulmonary Illness (VAPI)? 

Safe Access New Mexico has ask the Department of Health to reconsider the current language now being used as a “warning label” for medical cannabis vaping products. The warning label is very misleading and to clear that up, Safe Access New Mexico suggested adding the following factual statement to the Warning Label: “It is important to note that this illness is not caused by anything intrinsic to cannabis.”

New Mexico should have also conducted a public meeting, like held Tuesday night in Colorado, where regulators held a public hearing on proposed rules to ban certain additives in cannabis vaping products.

Medical cannabis manufacturers and producers in New Mexico must label their THC-containing vape products with: “WARNING: Vaping cannabis-derived products containing THC has been associated with cases of severe lung injury, leading to difficulty breathing, hospitalization and even death,” MJ Business Daily reported. 

Nor has the NM Department of Health posted anything about this “warning label” to the state’s medical cannabis program website to inform the medical cannabis program participants, as of Friday morning October 11 2019.  [Link: https://nmhealth.org/about/mcp/svcs/]

And the statement made on these warning labels are not entirely accurate based on CDC Data for VAPI.  [Link to all that CBD data: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease/resources/index.html]

The New Mexico Health Department did not require any “Warning labels” on nicotine vaping products. 
The New Mexico Environment Department has not required any “Warning labels” on any Hemp CBD vaping products. 
The state hit the panic button with it's warning label singling out products in the state's medical cannabis program.

The state of New Mexico has ignored the true problems causing the outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with E-Cigarette Use, or Vaping.

Problems the CDC has found, that state has failed to mention; such as adulterants, contaminants, heavy metals, residual solvents, chemical residues, and other health concerns, such as mold and dangerous bacteria.

It is important to note that this illness is not caused by anything intrinsic to cannabis and the state of New Mexico has failed to mention that key fact.
The state should be encouraging participation in the state’s medical cannabis program amidst the Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with E-Cigarette Use, or Vaping instead using scare tactics on a warning label. The focus of the problem for New Mexico should be on improving the lab testing standards for cannabis products, the blackmarket, and those promoting the use of the blackmarket.

The available evidence from the CDC indicates that the vast majority of those who were sickened after using a vaporizer cartridge purported to contain THC purchased their cartridges not through legally licensed stores, but through unregulated, illicit channels.

Additionally, CDC data indicates that 16% reported the exclusive use of nicotine-containing products in the 30 days prior to symptom onset.

But no “warning label” for those nicotine vape products in New Mexico.

Some operators are cashing in on the Hemp CBD craze by substituting cheap and illegal synthetic marijuana for natural Hemp CBD in vapes and CDC data shows this has caused Vaping-Associated Pulmonary Illness (VAPI).

The AP News commissioned laboratory testing of 29 vape products sold as Hemp CBD around the country, with a focus on brands that authorities or users flagged as suspect. Ten of the 30 contained types of synthetic marijuana — drugs commonly known as K2 or spice that have no known medical benefits — while others had no CBD at all.

And we have seen two Albuquerque news stations expose some Hemp CBD retail stores for selling questionable/mislabeled products, but no “warning label” for those Hemp CBD vape products in New Mexico.
[KOAT News Hemp CBD Investigative Story: https://www.koat.com/article/mixed-bag-of-results-whats-really-in-your-cbd-products/27532208

KOB News Hemp CBD Investigative Story: https://www.kob.com/new-mexico-news/4-investigates-cbd-industry-is-operating-in-the-dark/5359467/?cat=500 ]

The New Mexico Department of Health also forgot to mention how they decided not to test New Mexico medical cannabis products for Heavy Metals, Pesticides and other dangerous toxins - All of which have been found in vaping products by the CDC that are making people sick.

Steep Hill labs warned lawmakers and the Department of Health about this in October 2017 at a Legislative Health and Human Services Committee Meeting and the state did nothing.
[Link to those Steep Hill Handouts: https://www.nmlegis.gov/handouts/LHHS%20101617%20Item%209%20Dr.%20Reggie%20Gaudino%20Testimony%20with%20NM%20Samples%2010_17_17.pdf ]

And a California based cannabis testing lab, CannaSafe, found that out of 12 illicit cannabis vape cartridges they tested, nine contained high levels of Vitamin E acetate and ALL contained pesticides, while none of the 104 legal products they examined had those contaminants.
[Link to that testing: https://www.businessinsider.com/study-counterfeit-vapes-contain-vitamin-e-pesticides-and-hydrogen-cyanide-2019-10 ]

Nor did the Department of Health consult any national organizations that are experts in cannabis policy, medical cannabis regulatory affairs, or in medical cannabis scientific research before issuing this biased health warning.

Americans For Safe Access(ASA) points out that as of yet, CDC investigators have not been able to pin down one factor or set of factors that is likely to result in illness. Vitamin E (tocopherol) acetate has been implicated as a potential cause of illness and injury in many of the cases involving illicit cannabis cartridges, but it has not been present in all samples. CannaSafe, a PFC-certified lab in California, recently revealed results from a small study that showed black market cartridges can contain extremely high concentrations of other dangerous chemicals, such as myclobutanil, a pesticide routinely found in cannabis samples that is converted to the poison hydrogen cyanide when heated to 400 °F (204.4 °C). CannaSafe also tested 10 illicit cartridges for myclobutanil and found it in each one, highlighting the need for patients and consumers to purchase products that have been subjected to mandatory testing for dangerous chemicals and other hazards. Additionally, such cartridges can contaminate their contents with heavy metals like arsenic and lead. However, the recent disclosure that at least one death has been linked to a legally purchased product underscores that this risk is not just confined to the illicit market.

ASA Recommendations

Whether due to better healthcare surveillance and reporting, the addition of new cutting agents or other additives, the presence of pesticides or other contaminants, issues with certain types, brands, or manufacturers of cartridges and other delivery mechanisms, a combination of these factors, or something else, it is clear that the use of ENDS is not without risk. ASA strongly recommends patients and consumers stop using cannabis-containing cartridges entirely (or at least to the extent possible) until there is clarity as to what is causing these illnesses and deaths.

ASA does not support outright bans on cannabis-containing cartridges or devices intended for the consumption of cannabis concentrates, which could simply drive more people to the unregulated market and exacerbate the spread of VAPI. Rather, we recommend bans on the inclusion of any additives (e.g., diluents, thickeners, flavoring agents) not derived from cannabis. Additionally, ASA recommend patients and consumers only purchase cannabis products that have undergone testing at an independent, third-party laboratory that has verified composition and potency and screened for adulterants, contaminants, heavy metals, residual solvents, chemical residues, and other health concerns, such as mold and dangerous bacteria.

Vape Alternatives

ASA understand that for many patients, inhalation may be the preferred - or the only effective - method of delivery. Historically, inhaling cannabis vapor has been considered a safer alternative to inhaling cannabis smoke because the toxic byproducts of combustion are avoided. While this is still believed to hold true for dry herb (flower) vaporizers, vape pens, though convenient and easy to use, should be avoided at this time. ASA recommends that patients and consumers who currently use a vape pen instead use other delivery mechanisms, such as dry herb vaporizers, tinctures, edibles, or topicals. Patients who must be able to medicate discreetly and rely on vape pens because they don’t produce cannabis’ signature scent may find combining the use of a flower vaporizer and a personal smoke filter to be a workable solution.

Conclusion

Americans for Safe Access started out in 2002 with the mission to not just ensure access to medical cannabis to patients across the county, but to ensure safe access. As a patient-focused organization, they take the safety of patients very seriously, and the emergence of VAPI has caused us great concern. The current health crisis that is being linked to the use of illicit concentrate vaporization products highlights the importance of legalization, regulation, laboratory testing of all cannabis and cannabis-derived products (most critically when they are in their final form), and third-party certification, such as that offered through ASA's Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program.

Since 2014, ASA has urged the industry to adopt third-party certification for all cannabis businesses. Through the PFC program, companies are required to adhere to safety, quality, manufacturing, testing, packaging, and labeling standards beyond those set by most jurisdictions where the medical and/or adult use of cannabis has been legalized.

PFC companies are subject to both routine and unannounced inspections by independent auditors, which is especially important in light of the fact that jurisdictions may not have enough inspectors to ensure that all licensed operators are complying with all regulations. Patients and consumers may wish to encourage the dispensaries they patronize and the brands that produce the products they use to explore PFC certification to ensure patient and consumer safety and product quality. ASA will continue to do our part for patients, who are and always will be our highest priority, by keeping up the pressure on industry to adopt regulations that promote patient and consumer safety and by persisting in our advocacy for safe access to cannabis for patients everywhere.