Monday, March 11, 2019

What Bad Legalization Policy Looks Like: The Cannabis Regulation Act in New Mexico.

Credit: SFR

As New Mexico’s 60-Day limited legislative session enters its last week in Santa Fe, lawmakers are working feverishly to finish passing bills before Saturday’s noon deadline.

One of the most talked about bills in the Roundhouse is the Cannabis Regulation Act (HB-356), the bill to legalize recreational use of cannabis.

If the Cannabis Regulation Act is passed in the Senate, Governor Lujan Grisham will have a lot to think about with this bill. The Cannabis Regulation Act has several proposed measures that have never been tried before with recreational legalization.

The most controversial concept is how the State of New Mexico would be the business owner and operator for all recreational cannabis stores. In Washington, the city of North Bonneville has the only government owned recreational cannabis dispensary in the US, opened in 2015. Four years later, that city has yet to turn a profit and is still paying off debt from opening the government owned dispensary.
An economic system for recreational cannabis where the government owns most of the factors of sales, production and decides the allocation of resources and what products and services will be provided, also known as a command system or Communism.

Taxes on cannabis sales would amount to roughly 17 -21 percent if the bill passes.

The state run recreational cannabis stores in the Cannabis Regulation Act will not provide the economic windfall that its supporters claim, not with state-run cannabis stores.

New Mexico will not see any benefit in tourism as suggested when surrounding states with legalization offer privately owned stores, lower prices and a lower tax rate. And for some NM residents it will be easier and cheaper to still go to Colorado.

The Cannabis Regulation Act also provides the cannabis consumer more ways to get into trouble with criminal charges compared to the other ten states with recreational cannabis legalization.

Legalization in New Mexico would require the cannabis consumers to have a receipt of sale for cannabis they possess. Those found without the receipts could face criminal charges. And to much possession of cannabis concentrated products could lead to a felony charge. The proposed legal possession limit of two ounces was lowered to one ounce and more than that also equals criminal charges.

It’s not legalization if you can be arrested for possessing or growing cannabis, this is fostering the failed War on Drugs.

The Cannabis Regulation Act does not allow for home cultivation of recreational cannabis plants. Senator Moores of Bernalillo (District 21) said this will prevent the black market for illegal cannabis sales.

The reality is that banning home growing for recreational cannabis will result in anybody and everybody deciding to grow despite the law. Banning home grow with legalization will enable a robust and very lucrative black market and that will easily undercut the legal market in prices, quality and quantity (see California).

The supporters of this bill have also said it protects the medical cannabis program. Yet, one question raised by the Department of Health in the bill’s legislative report was the continued existence of “personal production licenses” in the medical cannabis program under this bill. The DOH also reported that other states have attempted to create this type of dual licensure system and it has ultimately led to shortages in product for medical cannabis as producers may forfeit their medical cannabis licenses for the profitable recreational licensure.

The Cannabis Regulation Act is a bad legalization policy approach for New Mexico.

Legislators have failed to Protect the Medical Cannabis Program, like Governor Lujan Grisham said to do before a legalization bill would get signed.

And still the fact remains that everything proposed in the Cannabis Regulation Act can be achieved by taking a true path to harm reduction in passing cannabis decriminalization and by expanding our medical cannabis program. The bill to that, SB-406, was gutted by the legislative sponsors for the Cannabis Regulation Act in committee.

Just as Americans For Safe Access Policy Position says, recreational use and medical use have only 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.

The legalization of cannabis for recreational use is a separate issue from safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use. We caution policy makers against letting the debate surrounding legalization of cannabis for recreational use obscure the science and policy regarding the medical use of cannabis.

So if you are not talking with your elected officials about this, then ask yourself, "Who is?

To Contact your State Senator Call 505-986-4714

The Office of the Lt. Governor Howie Morales (who presides over the Senate Floor Sessions) Call (505) 476-2250

Image result for cares act
(From 2018)
We All Need To Contact Governor Lujan Grisham:

The Office of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is located on the 4th floor of the New Mexico State Capitol in Room 400. Phone: (505) 476-2200

[About the author: Jason Barker, he is a 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. Jason lives in Albuquerque with his dog, Tecumseh, who has a very severe case of canine epilepsy.
*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 recreational cannabis industry. ]

Key Dates To Know About:
The First Session of the 54th Legislature
March 16 2019: 60 Day Legislative Session ends at noon.

New Mexico Medical Cannabis Conference Presented by The Verdes Foundation
Sunday, March 24, 2019 at 9 AM – 5 PM
UNM Student Union Building
Bldg 60, Suite 3020 1 University of New Mexico

Medical Cannabis Advisory Board Meeting
Friday March 29 2019 @ 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Harold Runnels Building
1190 S. St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, NM 87505
2019 Petition: Requesting The Inclusion Of A New Medical Condition: Substance Abuse Disorder:

2020 is a 30 day Session: in even-numbered years the Legislature is limited to dealing with budgetary matters, bills that deal with issues raised by special messages of the Governor of New Mexico, and bills vetoed in the previous session by the Governor.