Sunday, October 30, 2016

New Mexico - It’s Time to Regulate Alcohol like Cannabis

The regulatory regime that has been applied to medical cannabis programs and legal cannabis states is far more severe than anything alcohol has been subjected to.
If there’s any doubt on this point, try this thought experiment: Think what obtaining alcohol would be like if instead of cannabis being regulated like alcohol, alcohol were regulated like cannabis.
A visit to a liquor store would begin with a clerk or sometimes a security person asking to see your ID, which isn’t too different from what happens today, but the ID would be subjected to much closer scrutiny than the check it receives today as one will need two forms of ID. Oh wait,  you have a hole punch in that ID but they gave you a piece of paper from the DMV saying it’s ok - nope. No sale. And every year, you need to provide proof to the State of New Mexico that you are still over the age of 21, and this process could take any where from 30-90 days.
If you’re wearing sun-glasses, chances are you will be asked to take them off so that the clerk can compare your photo with your face. Oh and if you are seen taking cash from someone else out front of the alcohol store then you will not get to purchase alcohol. If you are driving home with your alcohol and get pulled over for a simple traffic ticket, the Police will have to call a special number to a person from the state to verify that you are indeed over 21 and can have alcohol.
Your license may also be swiped through some sort of a scanner, which presumably will check it against a state database.
Instead of going directly into the store and choosing among thousands of kinds of beer, wine and distilled spirits displayed on supermarket-style shelves, you would be asked to take a seat in a waiting room until a alcohol tender.  In a separate room, where the alcoholic beverages were actually sold, was available to wait on you. The experience would be more like waiting to see a doctor than making a quick beer run.
When a alcohol tender became available and you were allowed to enter the holy of holies where the alcoholic beverages were kept, the first thing your personal alcohol tender would do is check your ID a second time.
The shopping experience would not be like going into a store and grabbing a bottle of scotch off a shelf or a couple of six-packs out of a cooler. The alcohol tender would be behind a counter and most of the merchandise would be behind the alcohol tender. In some stores the alcohol tender would bottle your purchase from a store barrel or vat instead of selling you pre-bottled beverages.
NMDrunk.pngInstead of being able to choose among thousands of beers, wines and liquors, your selection would be limited to a few dozen choices.
There would be a strict limit on the amount of alcohol you could buy in a single trip to the store — liquid ounces are now called units, now these units equal the same as the ounces but we count them differently. (?) And maybe a couple of six-packs of beer or a bottle of scotch. There would be a legal limit on how much booze you could possess at any one time.
You would not be able to put your purchase on your credit card — alcohol selling would be a cash only business, although some stores would take debit cards. Most stores would have an ATM machine available so you could get the cash to make your purchase.
Your beer would come in a child-proof container. If you have someone else who lives with you and they drink alcohol too, then both of you are limited to what is allowed in your refrigerator. Nor are you allowed to share what you bought from the alcohol tender or gift this alcohol to another drinker. Making homemade craft beer, wine or even mixing your favorite alcoholic drink, is now considered home manufacturing and is illegal.
Alcohol consumers wouldn’t put up with this sort of over-regulation for a nano-second. Yet alcohol demonstrably causes much more violence and antisocial behavior than cannabis does. And alcohol kills people in a number of ways.
Two New Mexico retail liquor licenses have sold for $975,000 each, the highest ever in the state. Other businesses and investors have routinely paid between $300,000 and $600,000 for a liquor license in 2013.

By comparison, in neighboring Colorado, the most expensive liquor license costs under $2,500. It’s even cheaper in Texas:  A two-year “package store permit” (a license to run a liquor store) is less than $1,500.  These two neighboring states have a far less of a problem with alcohol and alcohol related deaths as well.

But unlike those states, New Mexico has a quota system for liquor licenses, with the cap currently at 1,411. The quota is supposedly restricted to one liquor license (either a bar or liquor store) for every 2,000 people, though there are some exemptions.  Thats 35 total medical cannabis dispensaries selling medicine and 1,411 alcohol stores profiting off New Mexicans while excessive-use of alcohol cost the state 2.2 Billion in one year in dealing with those problems.  

Medical cannabis consumers and producers put up with it because that was what it took to overcome 70 years of reefer-madness lying by pot prohibitionists inside and outside of the government.
Yet there is no question that the result of cannabis over-regulation is that a visit to a medical cannabis dispensary is only slightly more exciting than a visit to a drug store.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Cannabis Freedom and Revenue for New Mexico

As a follow up to my previous article, Cannabis, Hemp, and a Paid State Legislature? Legalization done right. The topic of legalization will be discussed and examined further on how it may affect the current medical cannabis program law, along with the potential benefits of legalization for the state of New Mexico.

Cannabis Revenue And Freedom

The Medical Cannabis Program in New Mexico has continued to be a topic of many headlines across the state and nationally, along with our state’s budget crisis, for several months now.  And most recently talk of how “recreational” cannabis legalization can provide much needed funds to an underfunded state budget.  New Mexico’s economy is one of the slowest growing economies in the country, now the state legislature is having to conduct a special session and recreational cannabis legalization will be discussed.  The state budget shortfalls for 2016 totals near $600 million, and this slow growth reveals too much dependence on largess by the federal government and oil revenues. Those sources of New Mexico's economic malaise provide funding for Education, Veterans Programs,  Police Funding, Firefighter/EMT Funding and Health and Human Services programs like Medicaid in our state.
For all New Mexicans our best platform to date for the legalization of cannabis, has been introduced in the New Mexico legislature special session as HB-11 (Cannabis Revenue & Freedom Act) by Bill McCamley and Javier Martinez .

Is there a difference between recreational and medical cannabis? Technically there is no difference. A cannabis plant’s effectiveness as medicine or recreation is determined solely by the individual.  In today’s era of how legalization and financial profits of cannabis has spread, the distinction matters.  Much of the basic science on cannabis has lead many industry medical and scientific professionals to realize all use of cannabis is medical.  If the person is or isn’t treating a diagnosed condition with cannabis, their choice to use it in place of a more toxic medication or other recreational drug,  is a proven healthful choice.  A basic over-the-counter drug, like aspirin, are even more dangerous than cannabis. Studies from the CDC, state how aspirin can cause gastrointestinal complications and even death if too much is ingested. On that same note, a individual of good health who chooses to smoke a joint rather than drink a beer is also making a positive health decision. To put that into context, according to the New Mexico Department of Health, and average of FOUR New Mexicans DIE everyday due to alcohol related causes.  Cannabis still claims zero lives annually and remains one of the most non-toxic substances safely used in New Mexico since 1978.

Ask an old school California activist like Dennis Peron, who spearheaded the cannabis bill, Proposition 215 in 1996, and he will tell you all use of cannabis is medical. Period. Peron is wary of the new legalization laws sweeping the nation.

While some may scoff at that notion, there is plenty of basic science to back it up.

Fundamental to this legalization discussion are the interests of the more than 30,000 New Mexicans statewide, who all benefit from medical cannabis under the 21 health conditions classified by Department Of Health in New Mexico eligible for the medical cannabis program. That’s also 30,000 voting New Mexicans.  As the legalization of cannabis debate heats up in New Mexico, we need to insure that the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, 2007, the state’s medical cannabis program is protected and improved by any legalization legislation.

Conservative estimates based on the legalization of recreational cannabis and increased sales taxes in neighboring states indicate that recurring revenues could be in the range of $75 to $100 million annually.  Colorado cannabis tax revenues now greatly exceeds original estimates of $70 million per year. Canada has had industrial hemp since 1998, and farmers there have reported net profits of $200 to $250 per acre. Most Canadian hemp is exported to the United States.

As more states legalize adult use or "recreational" cannabis, state-sanctioned medical cannabis programs have come under attack, just as we have seen by Ultra Health from within the New Mexico medical cannabis program. In an attempt to sell legalization to anti-cannabis voters, legalization advocates have emphasized the financial rewards over harm reduction or freedom.  Good old-fashioned American capitalism driving legalization should come as no surprise in today’s world, although the arguments for freedom and liberty should be more powerful drivers for American voters on both sides of the aisle. Especially considering political dynamics of this election season for New Mexico, every legislature seat in the Roundhouse will be voted on in November.

Does there even need to be a distinction between medical and recreational cannabis use? It seems drawing lines in the sand may cause more harm than good, right?
In the case of American states in the era of legalization, it is no longer the individual’s right to determine the benefit of their use, but the government’s decision. If the government thinks you are just wanting to have a good time they can excise 15 or 20 percent or more in tax. This incentivizes states to classify more people's use as recreational rather than medical for those tax profits.

Most states with medical cannabis programs have a list of conditions for which recommendations are approved. These usually include the most serious and common fatal and chronic illnesses, such as cancer, AIDS, autoimmune disorders and epilepsy. When it comes to mental disorders, diseases so obscure they don’t fit on the list or the right to use cannabis in place of "as needed" drugs like aspirin, state governments have determined that this use is recreational, not medical.

Even in legal states, patients are losing access to doctors.  In Oregon, Washington and Colorado state legislators have been quite concerned about who still can have access to lower-priced tax-free medical cannabis. This has led to a "decoupling" of patients from their caregivers and many patients being told they no longer qualify as medical.  How many patients can live together,  cultivate, how many plants can be cultivated, and useable amounts of medical cannabis have all seen reductions in medical following recreational.  Look at the Arizona medical cannabis program and the three things they have that New Mexico’s program does not have; a 25 Mile No Grow Rule for Patients (within 25 miles of a dispensary), unlimited plant count for dispensary growers, and much higher prices for medical cannabis products.

Why? Because the argument for American greed is winning over the argument for American liberty. As we move closer to a federal solution, we should emphasize the conservative and liberal held views that freedom means autonomy over one’s body, especially regarding one’s health and the medications they choose to use to treat whatever it is that ails them. It is un-American to allow the state to determine the best medical care for patients, rather than the doctors and patients themselves. Despite the legislature not authorizing the New Mexico Department of Health to insert itself into the doctor-patient relationship and second-guess the merits of a particular prescription, as they continually have done and currently still do to state residents by not following the Lynn and erin Compassionate Use act, 2007.

The heart of the first medical cannabis initiative to pass in California in 1996, was freedom. Instead, it simply said a person has the right to use cannabis for any condition for which a doctor sees fit.  Today Legislators, the Governor and Department of Health officials in our state and other states point to this as what they - as responsible politicians - will not do.  Governments, not doctors, dictating care options for patients…

The Colorado Tourism Office reports that 12% are visiting Colorado dispensaries and 5% specifically due to cannabis legalization there. The activities that cannabis tourist reported engaging in included: sightseeing and wine tours, historical sites, hiking, camping, mountain biking, winter snow sports, nightlife, festivals and farmers' markets, according to the survey.  All great activities we have in New Mexico with a Balloon Fiesta to boot.

As we dive into the 2016 election season, pro-cannabis voters and concerned patients need to recognize their power. We are the majority. And, more importantly, as free people - especially Americans - we must make a choice: liberty or greed?

The state of New Mexico should legalize recreational cannabis and industrial hemp to first and foremost start paying the state legislators.  A hybrid state legislature: Meeting for most of the year and pays the legislators as full-time employees. They can serve the constituents well because of their extended time in office and ability to devote more time to each issue. New Mexico is the only state with a unsalaried legislature.

Of the three most crucial budget demands upon the state: Public Schools, Medicaid, and Higher Education. Combined they provide the true economic and social multiplier with the greatest opportunity of success for the state’s residents and the state’s economy. Providing funding for these invaluable programs in our state can be achieved with recreational cannabis and industrial hemp legalization; in conjunction with the utilization of solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources.
The state has the renewable resources to potentially provide 1,000 times more clean energy than Public Service Company of New Mexico’s current demand, according to the state Energy Conservation and Management Division.  

It’s time for New Mexico to return as the leader and pioneer in the sciences of medical cannabis and recreational cannabis. We need to define a model for cannabis legalization, that protects and improves the state’s medical cannabis program and by showing how recreational cannabis legalization can be done without regulating completely like alcohol. New Mexico should legalize cannabis, regulate, and tax cannabis like herbal and nutritional supplements and by combining the high standards of alcohol regulation specific to craft brewery regulations we have in New Mexico. As all use of cannabis has true therapeutic aspects and the state budget can benefit from it regulated without excessive taxes.

Legalization Is About Freedom And Good Health, Not Greed.  For all New Mexicans our best platform to date for the legalization of cannabis, has been introduced in the New Mexico legislature special session as HB-11 (Cannabis Revenue & Freedom Act) by Bill McCamley and Javier Martinez .  

Pro’s To The Cannabis Revenue & Freedom Act:
  • legalization
  • revenue for underfunded state budget
  • lowered medical producer fees ( 450 plants for $45,000, Lic Fee $15,000, $500 to process application, person may hold more than one kind of & type of lic )
  • Plant count increase structured : 1000 plants by July 1st 2017 then 2000 by July 1st 2018
  • Taxes: 15% with possible 5% more Municipality tax and another possible 5% county
  • Allows for medical patients with PPL to sell excess cannabis to producer

To provide for proper protections for the existing Lynn and Erin Compassionate Act, 2007;  
  1. LECUA Patients Coalition Of New Mexico: LECUA ACT, 2007,  Policy & Reform Goals To :
    1. Ensuring safe access to all areas of the the state and proper administering of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, by the New Mexico State Department of Health.  
      1. Added involvement of additional New Mexico state departments or agencies.
        1. Dept. of Agriculture & Licensing and Taxation Departments
        2. Medical Cannabis Advisory made to have final authority of LECUA, 2007, and removing the Secretary of Dept. of Health as sole authority. Given ¾ majority vote by the MCAB to overrule the Secretary.

      1. Role and Duties of State Departments & Agencies defined clearly
    1. Adequate supply of medical cannabis properly defined, structured, and increased.
      1. Maximum quantity of usable cannabis increased to 425.243 grams per 3 months ( 2.5 ounces every two weeks ).                  
      2. Inclusion of empirical data for for determining adequate supply for varying amounts cannabis plant material needed to manufacture different forms of medical cannabis medicine for proper dosage.        

    1. Revisions to licensing requirements for MCP LNPP’s
      1. Plant count for patients & producers properly structured and increased.
      2. Cannabis CBD strains at ratio of;  1.5 thc  (or lower) : 1 cbd (or higher) not counted against patient/caregiver or LNPP allowable plant count.
      3. Clones and Cuttings provided to qualified patient / caregiver with a PPL by a LNPP’s not counted against LNPP allowable plant count.
      4. Plant Count that is based on ratio of patients to serve AND inclusion of empirical data for varying amounts cannabis plant material needed to manufacture different forms of medical cannabis medicine.  
        1. Patient / Caregiver PPL plant count increased to allow for 6 immature seedlings /clones / cuttings, 6 plants in vegetative stage, and 6 plants in flowering stage for total of 18 cannabis plants.
        2. The addition of Cooperative/Collective PPL’s
          1. Whereas Rules and Regulations for Personal Production License should additionally include:
            The Department shall issue a individual cultivation registration to a qualifying patient or their personal caregiver. No more than 10 qualified patients may collectively cultivate, and each participating patient must obtain a collective cultivation registration. The Department may deny a registration based on the provision of false information by the applicant. Such registration shall allow the qualifying patient or their personal caregiver to cultivate an area of limited square footage of plant canopy, sufficient to maintain a 90-day supply of cannabis, and shall require cultivation and storage only in a restricted access area.
            A qualifying patient or personal caregiver shall not be considered to be in possession of more than a 90-day supply at the location of a restricted access area used collectively by more than one patient, so long as the total amount of cannabis within the restricted access area is not more than a 90-supply for all the participating qualifying patients. A copy of each qualifying patient’s written recommendation shall be retained at the shared cultivation facility
          2. Qualified patients shall provide the following in order to be considered for a personal production license to produce medical cannabis:
            (1)  a description of the single indoor or outdoor location that shall be used in the production of cannabis;                
            (2)  a written plan that ensures that the cannabis production shall not be visible from the street or other public areas;
          3. (3)  a written acknowledgement that the applicant will ensure that all cannabis, cannabis-derived products and paraphernalia is accessible only by the applicant, collective members and/or their primary caregiver (if any), and kept secure and out of reach of children;
          4. (4)  a description of any device or series of devices that shall be used to provide security and proof of the secure grounds; and
            (5)  a written acknowledgement of the limitations of the right to use and possess cannabis for medical purposes in New Mexico.
          5. Cultivation facility” means a business that:
            1. Is registered with the Department of Agriculture; and (we should be having Dept. of Ag involved)
            2. Acquires, possesses, cultivates, harvests, dries, cures, trims, and packages cannabis and other related supplies for the purpose of delivery, transfer, transport, supply, or sales to:
            (a) dispensing facilities;
            (b) processing facilities;
            (c) manufacturing facilities;
            (d) other cultivation facilities;
            (e) research facilities.
            (f) independent testing laboratories.

        1. LNPP Plant Count maximum ratio of 3 cannabis plants per enrolled patient. Based on yearly program totals. Thus; 30,000 patients x 3 cannabis plants  = 90,000 cannabis plants / 35 LNPP = 2,571.43 max allowable cannabis plants per LNPP. (Minimum standard set by MCAB / Plant Count adjusted yearly for program growth)
          1.    Plant count increase structured : 1000 plants by July 1st 2017 then 2000 by July 1st 2018 and then 571 by July 2019   
      1. Licensing fee structure changed and lowered.
        1. The department shall assess a nonrefundable fee not greater than five hundred dollars ($500) for processing an application for a new or renewal license.
        2. For a new or renewal processor license, medical wholesale license or medical retail license, the department shall charge an annual license fee of not more than two thousand dollars ($2,000).
        3. For a new or renewal production license, the department shall charge an annual license fee of:
          1. Fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000), if the producer will possess up to one hundred fifty cannabis plants;
          2. and an additional five thousand dollars ($5,000) for each additional fifty cannabis plants the producer will possess;
          3. Cannabis and HEMP CBD strains at ratio of;                            1.5 thc  (or lower) : 1 cbd (or higher) are not counted against patient/caregiver or LNPP allowable plant count.
          4. Clones and Cuttings provided to qualified patient / caregiver with a PPL by a LNPP’s are not counted against LNPP allowable plant count.
          5. provided, however, that the maximum fee charged for a new or renewal production license shall not exceed forty-five thousand dollars ($45,000) per LNPP.  The annual license fees provided for in this section are nonrefundable and shall be paid by upon the issuance of a license.
          6. Any resulting legalization of cannabis for adult recreational in the state of New Mexico, shall use a licensing fee structure; respectively, $4000 Annual Lic/$30,000 Production Lic/$7,500 per additional fifty cannabis plants.
            1. 7.10 percent of recreational cannabis sales are returned into the medical cannabis program to maintain and improve the program
      2. Licensure Limit Established: LNPP 1 Grow Location : 3 Store Fronts
        1. Current producers granted additional license per application review and program standards met
      3. Time Period for new producers to open; 90 days Expected / Letter sent given final 45 days before forfeiture of license.
      4. The Department of Health shall employ 3 staff members to provide medical cannabis health education. The Department of Health shall also establish a training or certification program for dispensary employees. Certification and/or medical standards established for dispensary staff.
    1. Proper administering of LECUA protections - Section 4.
      Section 4 of the Law: Exemptions from Criminal and Civil Penalties for the Medical Use of Cannabis.  This aspect has been greatly neglected for the Parents as Patients in the program, who have children. And the many concerns and fears they have that have not been addressed by the Department of Health.
    2. Increasing the types of qualifying health conditions in the State’s Medical Cannabis Program to ensure safe access for one’s own health and well being.
    3. Removal of: L Maximum Concentration of THC in Concentrates
    4. Removal of the 2015 change to PPL Application to be compliant with HIPPA and the intent of the LECUA
    5. Presumptive eligibility and once a patient is accepted into the program,  registry and PPL identification cards should be set at a 3 - 5 yr renewal basis. The Department can then do yearly address verification by mail all while maintaining safe access to medical cannabis.
      1. Recognition of nonresident medical cannabis cards.
        1. Recognition of nonresident cards

          (A) The (STATE) and the medical cannabis dispensing facilities in this State which hold valid medical cannabis establishment registration certificates will recognize a medical cannabis registry identification card issued by another state or the District of Columbia only under the following circumstances:
          1. The state or jurisdiction from which the holder or bearer obtained the nonresident card grants an exemption from criminal prosecution for the medical use of cannabis;
          2. The nonresident card has an expiration date and has not yet expired;
          3. The holder or bearer of the nonresident card signs an affidavit in a form prescribed by the Department which sets forth that the holder or bearer is entitled to engage in the medical use of cannabis in his or her state or jurisdiction of residence; and
          4. The holder or bearer of the nonresident card is in possession of no more than a 90-day supply of cannabis.
          (B)  For the purposes of the reciprocity described in this section:
          1. The amount of medical cannabis that the holder or bearer of a nonresident card is entitled to possess in his or her state or jurisdiction of residence is not relevant; and
          2. Under no circumstances, while in this State, may the holder or bearer of a nonresident card possess cannabis for medical purposes in excess of a 90-day supply of cannabis.

    1. INCREASE MEMBERSHIP of the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board. I think it is clear the Department of Health needs to be directed by lawmakers to update the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, to consist of 12 members to be appointed by the Director and reviewed by this Committee. A quorum of the advisory board shall consist 6 members. As this will strongly complement the eight nationally board-certified practitioners in their area of specialty and knowledgeable about the medical use of cannabis current on the Board. Updating the MCAB membership would then also be a reflection of the New Mexicans that the program was created to serve.
      1. Whereas: New members of the MCAB are to be: at least one person who possesses a qualifying patient's registry identification card, at least one person who is a designated primary caregiver of one or more qualifying patients, at least one person who is an officer, board member, or other responsible party for a licensed medical cannabis dispensing facility, and at least one qualifying patient who is either a Armed Forces Veteran or prior Law Enforcement/Fire/EMT Veteran status.

      1. Whereas: The MCAB shall meet at least four times per year, at times and places specified by the Director to be feasible for the patient community and public to attend.

      1. Whereas: The Department shall provide staff support to the committee.

      1. Whereas:  All agencies of state government are directed to assist the Committee in the performance of its duties and, to the extent permitted by laws relating to confidentiality, to furnish information and advice that the members of the committee consider necessary to perform their duties.
    1. Advocate for House Bill 466 to be brought back ( D. Armstrong in 2015 ) to provide for medical cannabis research, medical cannabis research board, & medical cannabis research fund.

To contact your New Mexico state legislator and voice your opinion go to, Find My Legislator or call the roundhouse at (505) 986-4600.

By Jason Barker

(Medical Cannabis Patient & Organizer -LECUA Patient’s Coalition Of New Mexico)