Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Medical Cannabis, Hemp, & Legalization: Part I

An Update On New Mexico Senate Cannabis Legislation
Part One of Two: Part Two Will Cover All New Mexico House of Representatives Cannabis Legislation
The New Mexico State Legislature is now just about half way thru the legislative session, with 32 days left till the end of the 2017 Session. The legislature has over 1,000 pieces of legislation filed, both chambers have passed about 32 pieces of legislation and the Governor has signed 5 - maybe six into to law. Do we have another Special Session looming in the fall of 2017? Policy topics in the legislation that have dominated the session so far; State’s Budget Crisis, Crime & Court Services, Education, and Cannabis Legislation.

We need to pause for a second here as a cannabis community in New Mexico, to have 14 different bills filed in the Roundhouse that are related to cannabis for the 2017 session is a great achievement and start to 2017.  And we owe that to the hard work of the cannabis community in 2016, as the patient community dealt with the horrible card delays last year. The advocacy from last year and how the cannabis community reachout out to lawmakers, putting a spotlight on the MCP issues, has enabled much of this policy we see today. In the 10 year history of the medical cannabis program, the last time cannabis had this much discussion in the Roundhouse, was in 2007 the year the Lynn & Erin Compassionate Use Act became law.  

Some key areas that many lawmakers are not well informed about include; how the medical program actually operates and works- they really have no idea from that very start of the process in seeing a doctor with a MCP application in hand and then thru to the end when the patient gets that card in the mail. And everything in the middle that goes along with being a patient in the program. Right now we are seeing some lawmakers and policy advisors trying to educate all the other lawmakers during committee hearings on cannabis legislation. And so far that has then created more questions and some confusion.

Citizen lobbying is an essential part of being a medical cannabis advocate and it is the only way elected officials will know how to represent you.

Medical cannabis advocates are not the only people talking with legislators about medical cannabis law and policy. Elected officials are hearing from police organization, medical cannabis opponents, Chamber of Commerce, and members of special interest groups opposed to the use of cannabis even for medical purposes. It is important for all medical cannabis advocates to think about the following questions: " Without hearing from you, how will your legislator know what is important to you? " Do you want to trust decisions about access to medical cannabis solely to lobbyists and policymakers?

The point is that you are the patient, the physician, the caregiver, the provider, the lawyer, the nurse, or family member who is affected by medical cannabis laws and policy. You are the voter with the power to hold elected officials accountable for their positions on policy matters. And you are the expert about how these laws and policies affect your daily life. So if you are not talking with you elected officials about medical cannabis, then ask yourself, "Who is?"

Call and email your Senator in your district and call the Roundhouse for your voice to be heard.
Senate Chamber main phone 505-986-4714 and general email: senate@nmlegis.gov
Call and email your House of Representative member in your district and call the Roundhouse for your voice to be heard. House of Representatives main phone number 505-986-4751 and general email: house@nmlegis.gov.

Contact the Legislative Council Service for general questions about the Legislature.

Contact the Governor

“Dear New Mexicans and Visitors,
I am committed to listening to your concerns and working to answer your questions.  Therefore, the Constituent Services division within my office has been directed to professionally and efficiently assist in answering your questions and responding to your requests of state government.
My staff is here to serve you and will do everything they can to address your concerns.
Please do not hesitate to call my office at 505-476-2200 to speak with a Constituent Services representative or fill out the form below and we will contact you in a timely manner.
Sincerely, Governor Susana Martinez”

New Mexico State Senate Cannabis Legislation Pending for 2017

State Senator Cisco McSorley, has been busy this session with three bills on cannabis, Senate Bill 6: “Industrial Research Rules”, Senate Bill 8: “Medical Marijuana Changes”, and  Senate Bill 177, “Medical Marijuana Changes”. Cisco McSorley has been a member of the New Mexico State Senate, representing district 16, Bernalillo county, he was first elected to the chamber in 1996. Senator McSorley served in the New Mexico State House of Representatives from 1985 to 1997. Senator McSorley earned his B.A. from the University of New Mexico in 1974 and his J.D. from the University of New Mexico, School of Law, in 1979. His professional experience includes working as a Teacher in Quito, Ecuador, from 1974 to 1976, and as a lawyer since 1979. The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, 2007, passed under Governor Bill Richardson and was lead in the state legislature by Senator Cisco McSorley.
Senate Bill 6 passed the Senate Chamber and is to now be introduced in the House Chamber and then referred to House Committee’s. The bill adds a new section to statute relating to New Mexico Department of Agriculture requiring the department to issue licenses to grow industrial hemp for research and development purposes – including agricultural, agronomic, ecological, processing, sales, and marketing research – pursuant to rules to be promulgated by NMDA. The bill requires an institution of higher education, person, or business that plans to grow industrial hemp seed or industrial hemp fiber to obtain a grower’s license by submitting an application to NMDA.
SB 6 requires New Mexico State University (NMSU) to establish a New Mexico industrial hemp
research and development fund consisting of fees collected by NMDA for industrial hemp
research and development, donations, grants, and income earned from investment of the fund.
Money in the fund does not revert to any other fund at the end of a fiscal year.
SB 6 amends the Controlled Substances Act to amend the definition of “marijuana” to exclude the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, containing a delta- 9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of no more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. Finally, SB 6 specifies the enumeration of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinols, or chemical derivatives thereof as a Schedule I controlled substance does not apply to cultivation of industrial hemp by qualified entities pursuant to rules adopted by NMDA.
Senate Bill 8 was the early or first version of Senate Bill 177, SB-8 was referred to Senate Committee’s and has not been scheduled nor is it expected to be heard with the passage of Senate Bill 177.

As for the passage of Senate Bill 177 on February 13, 2017, in the Senate Chamber and it is to now be scheduled for introduction in the House Chamber and then referred to House Committee’s. Senate Bill 177 adds 14 conditions to the definition of debilitating medical condition qualifying a
person to obtain a medical cannabis registry identification card. The bill wanted to add ‘status
as a veteran’ as an automatic qualification for obtaining a registration identification card. Veteran status was removed as a "qualifying condition" on a floor amendment by request of a former Rear Admiral, Payne, a attorney and a New Mexico State Senator who thought is was giving Veterans recreational “pot”.

Personal production license, registry identification card, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are newly defined in the bill. The bill would also require ‘written certification’ from practitioners to include a statement on the maximum amount of THC concentration that would be beneficial to a patient and would limit patients from possessing more than this amount.

Patients are allowed to have 5 oz every two weeks under SB-177, and it was said in Committee by Drug Policy Alliance, that the increase to 5 oz every two weeks helps patients in Rural areas because those patients would not have to drive to Albuquerque as much. This increase was also discussed during the Senate floor debate, despite this the bill doesn’t clarify about the two weeks.  The Roundhouse has been short staffed due to the delay in the passage of the “feed bill” that funds the legislature and would expect the next updated version for the House Chamber to show this.

This legislation has really great potential to help patients with very favorable items in it; SB-177 would increase Personal Production Licence benefits by allowing one to have 18 total plants, Patients with a PPL would also keep all that one can harvest.(Removes 230 unit/gram Limit on PPL Harvest) Get your Personal Production License, as the benefits are worth it. Removal of Concentrate Cap that has been limited to 70% THC, and addition of “Substance Abuse/Addiction” as a Qualifying Condition, allows patients to be organ donor, and furthers Patient’s Protections with youth services. The bill would not allow children to be removed and placed into state custody based solely on an individual’s participation in the medical cannabis program.

One of the bigger changes amended into SB-177, the Recognition of Non-Resident Medical Cannabis Cards.  This is a great thing for the MCP in being able to allow and accommodate the patient community from other states. It could allow some medical cannabis tourism and ease travel for patients in others states.  Reciprocity could generate revenue for the state and help lower current prices that are oddly higher at the moment for the program

Senate Bill 177 sets licensure fees of $30 thousand for the first 150 plants, $10 thousand for each
additional 50 plants, and a licensure fee limit of $90 thousand. Additionally, the bill sets statutory limits on the possession of medical cannabis as listed in the table below. It was said during both committee and the floor debate that the program currently has 32,000 patients. The last Department of Health report was in October 2016 and it said we had 32,840 registered patients. The Department of Health estimates approximately 500 to 800 new patients join the program weekly, as reported by the Santa Fe New Mexican on February 14th 2017. If that is correct then the MCP has closer to 39,000 patients currently.

Plant Count For Producers Based On Patient Population Growth For Adequate Supply Proposed: Legislators could easily solve this by looking to Americans For Safe Access for this policy.

Number of Patients  35,000 = 500 Plant Cap for each Licensed Producer = ½ plant per patient
Number of Patients  40,000 = 600 Plant Cap for each Licensed Producer = 0.052 plants per patient
Number of Patients  45,000 = 700 Plant Cap for each Licensed Producer = 0.544 plants per patient
Number of Patients  50,000 = 800 Plant Cap for each Licensed Producer = 0.56 plants per patient
Number of Patients  55,000 = 900 Plant Cap for each Licensed Producer = 0.572 plants per patient
Number of Patients  60,000 = 1,000 Plant Cap for each Licensed Producer = 0.58 plants per patient

Senate Bill 177 proposed making it so if the patient’s debilitating condition is considered chronic, then reapplication would be required no sooner than three years from the date of issuance. However, if the condition is not chronic, reapplication would be no sooner than three years but the patient would be required to submit a statement from a practitioner annually. The 3 year card renewal was also amended out late, this came by request of Dr. Rosenberg (former DoH MCAB member).

It was changed to be a written attestation, thus "written attestation" means a written statement from a qualified patient that: (1) states that the qualified patient has been diagnosed by a practitioner as having a debilitating medical condition; (2) states that the qualified patient continues to receive care from a practitioner for the debilitating medical condition in accordance with a schedule determined by that Practitioner; (3) states that the qualified patient's practitioner has indicated that the practitioner believes that the potential health benefits of the medical use of cannabis would likely outweigh the health risks for the patient; and (4) provides the name, telephone number and address for the qualified patient's practitioner; and".
"SECTION 5. A new section of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate
Use Act is enacted to read:
[NEW MATERIAL] REGISTRY IDENTIFICATION CARD--RENEWAL.--A qualified patient shall renew the qualified patient's and that qualified patient's primary caregiver's registry identification cards on an annual basis by submitting to the department a written attestation."

In regards to the Veteran status not being approved, there is a avenue for that to still happen by amending language in SB-177.  Per the V.A. -Definition: Veteran. A “veteran” is a person who. served in the active military, naval or air service, and. was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable. A veteran is a former member of the Armed Forces of the United States (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) who served on active duty, the National Guard and Reserve is included.

*There is where on Page 7, line 23 of the senate bill (SB0177JUS.pdf) - (22) any other medical condition, medical treatment or disease as approved by the department; that needs to be changed to;
WhereAs (22) [could state the following] “ 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.”  
The addition of that language in Part B (8) of the LECUA law, would open up the medical cannabis program allowing for more Veteran participants and expand safe access to medical cannabis. Major life activities as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.
A Veteran who worked computers and developed migraines would then qualify, a Veteran who was deployed somewhere and then developed asthma would qualify - and so on. It’s very open like that but also legal language from American with Disabilities Act of 1990 and that was used in California’s medical cannabis law. Nor does the language classify a Veteran as “disabled” or “sick” as raised by Senators in Committee’s.
New Mexico State Senator Benny Shendo, Jr has introduced Senate Bill 345: “Medical Marijuana Tribal Agreements”.

The legislation calls for the  Department of Health to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with any sovereign Indian nation, tribe or pueblo located in New Mexico that elects to implement the provisions of the medical cannabis program established pursuant to the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act. The intergovernmental agreement shall provide for any assistance from the department that an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo may request in implementing its own medical cannabis program within the boundaries of that nation, tribe or pueblo and that the department agrees to provide; and  guidelines for compliance with department rules or compliance with separate express provisions of the intergovernmental agreement to govern the rights and the responsibilities of the department and an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo when that Indian nation, tribe or pueblo transports or sells medical cannabis outside of the boundaries of that Indian nation, tribe or pueblo."

States that have legalized cannabis for adult use that also have tribal lands are: California, Colorado, Maine,  Oregon, Nevada, and Washington.  States with medical cannabis laws and tribal lands are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, and Montana.

New Mexico Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, has proposed a constitutional amendment for 2017, due to opposition by Gov. Susana Martinez on cannabis in past years. If a majority of members of both legislative houses in New Mexico vote in favor of the proposed amendment, the proposal will automatically be placed on a statewide election ballot, bypassing the Governor’s desk and any veto. Ortiz y Pino has noted that all states that have legalized cannabis for adult use, have done so through a general election vote.
Gerald "Jerry" Ortiz y Pino represents district 12 in Bernalillo county. He was first elected to the chamber in 2004. Ortiz y Pino earned a B.A. in Latin American studies from the University of New Mexico in 1965 and an M.A. in social work from Tulane University in 1968. His professional experience includes working as a social worker.
Senate Joint Resolution 19, asks the voters to amend the state’s constitution to allow possession and personal use of cannabis by people 21 years or older. It create the regulation for production and sale of cannabis, and allows collection of a tax on the sale of cannabis for, “taxation or other regulation of marijuana to be used to fund the state's medicaid program or drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs”.
Senate Bill 278 enacts the Cannabis Revenue and Freedom Act (CRFA), and is Sponsored by Senator Ortiz y Pino and Senator Mimi Stewart. Senate Bill 278 establishes a comprehensive regulatory framework for the legal production, processing and sale (to persons 21 years of age and older) of industrial hemp, cannabis and cannabis items, as well as amending existing law governing the medical cannabis program (the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, or LECUA).

Applications to produce, process and sell medical marijuana under the existing law governing medical cannabis would be accepted beginning July 1, 2018. Applications to produce process and sell cannabis more generally begins July 1, 2020. The Act creates a new Cannabis Control Board to regulate and oversee both the existing medical cannabis program and the cannabis program established under CRFA. It also assigns duties and grants powers to that board and the Departments of Regulation and Licensing (RLD), Taxation and Revenue (TRD), Agriculture (DOA) and Health (DOH). Senate Bill 278 also enacts the Cannabis Tax Act and amends other existing law consistent with the provisions of the CRFA.
Cannabis use in public places is prohibited, although a cannabis retailer may provide a location for on-site consumption upon license endorsement. A person’s conduct in compliance with CRFA shall not be grounds for adverse employment action and other forms of discrimination in housing, child custody, visitation and parenting unless specified conditions exist. A limited amount of homegrown cannabis is exempted from CRFA, but it cannot be produced, processed or stored in public view. Municipalities and counties may enact regulations related to nuisance aspects of retail establishments. Municipalities with populations over 5,000 and all counties may hold local option elections to prohibit licensed premises.
The Cannabis Control Board is composed of 13 members appointed by the Governor, subject to Senate confirmation, including two licensees, two medical or public health professionals, two patients in the medical cannabis program, one public member, one banking or finance professional, one representative of the labor industry, and one representative each of RLD, DOA, DOH, and the Department of Environment. The control board’s regulatory oversight duties include establishing a medical cannabis subsidy program to distribute a portion of cannabis tax revenue to qualified patients in the medical cannabis program, adopting rules regarding the medical cannabis program including what constitutes an adequate supply, forms of cannabis to be used, determining what debilitating medical conditions qualify a patients for the program and procedures for these patients to produce medical cannabis for personal use, develop a distribution system for medical cannabis, and limit the number of plants a producer and patient may possess.
The board is also charged with promulgating rules addressing both the medical cannabis and the recreational cannabis programs by January 1, 2018. Those rules must include standards for growing, a system to track plants, conditions governing interstate sales, use of cannabis items for all purposes, prohibitions on advertising of cannabis items by a licensee, the number of plants in a producer’s possession prior to sale of recreational cannabis under CRFA becomes legal, and labeling of THC concentration.
SB 278 also enacts the Cannabis Tax Act (CTA). It imposes a 15 percent excise tax on cannabis sales tax on retailers who sell marijuana items, the net receipts from which are to be distributed under the Tax Administration Act as follows:
-40 percent to the public school fund to augment state equalization guarantee distribution
-23 percent to the substance abuse prevention and behavioral health fund (a new fund
created in this act administered by the DOH for alcohol and substance abuse prevention,
early intervention and treatment and related services);
-20 percent to the cannabis revenue economic development fund (another new fund administered by the Economic Development Department for local and regional economic development and training, including for formerly incarcerated persons);
-7.5 percent to the district attorney public safety fund (another new fund administered by AODA for certain arrest and incarceration diversion programs for low-level drug related offenses and development of intoxicated driving detection programs;
-7.5 percent to the public defender public safety fund (another new fund administered by the public defender department for its operations); and
-2 percent to the medical cannabis subsidy fund (the last new fund administered by DOH
to support qualified patients).
The CTA also authorizes a five percent county and a five percent municipal cannabis tax, subject to approval by the electorate and a deduction of up to three percent by TRD to cover the administrative costs of collection. The balance may be used by the local public body for its general governmental purposes.
The amendments to LECCA and provisions in CRFA more generally substitute the control board for DOH as the rule-maker and overseer of the medical cannabis program generally, although DOH continues to perform identification and licensing functions. They also impose licensing fee amounts on producers consistent with those imposed in the recreational use program. SB 278 also amends other existing state law, including the Controlled Substances Act, to exempt conduct authorized by the CRFA from their provisions. It also reduces some criminal penalties relating to possessing, possessing with intent to distribute, distributing, and trafficking
As New Mexico works to define a model for cannabis legalization that protects and improves the state’s medical cannabis program and puts patients first as well, lawmakers have a lot of history to contend with. New Mexico’s medical cannabis history started in 1978 (After public hearings the legislature enacted H.B. 329, the nation’s first law recognizing the medical value of cannabis). In an Albuquerque Journal poll conducted in October 2016, 61 percent of likely voters said they would support a measure to legalize recreational cannabis for adults age 21 and older.
It’s really important for all people within the cannabis community to know they are the power; the government, legislators & policy makers are lead to us and We have the power to change the laws and government - people in it, policy being written, and overturning rules & regulations that disrupt safe access to our medicine. Not one state’s medical cannabis law is perfect, they are working pieces of democracy and this is where WE can establish patient lead policy in New Mexico and other states. We have the science, the research, the knowledge - the information the policy makers need to have and we need to get it in front of legislators.

By Jason Barker - Organizer & Medical Cannabis Patient
LECUA Patient’s Coalition Of New Mexico