Sunday, August 18, 2019

Public Comment for Governor’s Legalization Working Group Meeting: August 14, Albuquerque

Safe Access New Mexico
Comments By: Jason Barker 

Safe Access New Mexico Facebook Community Page
Safe Access New Mexico Facebook Group

Public Comment for Governor’s Legalization Working Group
Meeting: August 14, Albuquerque 

Working Group Website:

Introduction: The Cannabis Regulation Act proposes several changes to the state’s current medical cannabis program, all of which would have a very negative impact on medical cannabis.

First and Foremost our state legislators should be keeping all Medical Cannabis Policy and Recreational Cannabis Policy separate in all Legislation.

This year during the 2019 60 day legislative session, Rep. Martinez, Senator Ortiz y Pino and Drug Policy Alliance conducted a Zoom Conference Call online to address the concerns of the Cannabis Regulation Act on Feb 12, 2019 in the morning. Has this video conference from this most recent legislative session be provided to the Working Group Chairperson to review? 
During this video call patients were able to ask questions and address concerns about recreational legalization, this conference call earlier in the year exposed how the legislative sponsors of this proposed bill did not know that in other states with medical cannabis programs after recreational cannabis legalization, ALL of those state medical cannabis programs have suffered. This will happen in New Mexico too due to how this bill has been written. The Working Group Chairperson and the members of the public should have access to this video call as it does address state policy currently being addressed and discussed.

Suggested Reading: ‘Will Recreational Use of Cannabis Impact Medical Use?’ | National Pain Report | 01.07.2019 | Link:

‘So Tired of Still Fighting for Medical Cannabis Rights’ | National Pain Report | 07.28.2019 | Link:

ASA’s Resources for Policy Makers, Medical Professionals & Researchers:Utilizing ASA’s eleven years of experience in implementing medical cannabis laws and our “Legislating Compassion” and “Regulating Compassion” policy tools, ASA staff offer patient advocates and policy makers legislative and regulatory analysis, amendments for legislation and regulations, strategy advice, campaign development and support, and targeted lobbying materials.

Public Comment Provided:

PART 1: Establishing a cannabis control board
[2019 HB-356; pgs 11 - 16 Link to HB-356:]

The need for New Mexico to include the state medical cannabis program as part of this proposed Cannabis Control Division reveals how this proposed Cannabis Regulation Act, this recreational cannabis program is a system of regulation being built on the backs of current medical cannabis laws in New Mexico. Using the state’s medical cannabis program to create a recreational cannabis program will result in great harm coming to the state’s medical cannabis program, Americans For Safe Access policy expertise advises that any system of regulation should not be built on the backs of current medical cannabis laws. And with over 100,000 active members in all 50 states, ASA is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. 

I would highly suggest that the Working Group Chairperson, Mr. Davis, to please take the time for a conference call with the Director of Americans For Safe Access, Debbi Churgai and David Mangone Esq., Director of Government Affairs and Legislative Counsel, to discuss what truly is at stake for New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program and its Participants. []

The legal scope of the proposed Cannabis Control Division should only pertain to recreational cannabis program policy and proposed activity, modeling it after the Colorado recreational program law would be the best option for New Mexico.

The membership for the cannabis control advisory committee is only eight (8) members, that is a small number limiting input, this does not allow for cognitive diversity, and therefore membership should be increased to 12-15 members.

The proposed membership for the state cannabis advisory board for ongoing policy recommendations and public reporting of industry impacts and outcomes; should be structured to handle only recreational cannabis policy items and its membership approval should be required to go through the public hearing process allowing public comment for membership approval.

The state medical cannabis program and all its regulation oversight should and must remain separate from any proposed recreational cannabis legislation and future law. Interfering with the state’s medical cannabis program in a proposed recreational cannabis law will result in the bill failing to pass the legislature again for the 9th year in a row, ethically its just wrong.

Those 8 years of trying to legalize recreational cannabis has interfered with the medical program operation due to the fact of how attempts at recreational cannabis legislation have taken up a lot more legislative time when compared to any medical cannabis bills filed over those 8 years - legislative time 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 any thing for 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 please finish what you started with Medical Cannabis. 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. We need to maintain this ethical medical value.

The only way the Cannabis Control Board will have any chance of having success in undercutting the illicit cannabis market will be to include a 10 plant home grow measure added to this proposed recreational cannabis law. If you tell people they can not have home grow then a lot of people will grow and ignore the law, if home grow is allowed the state will see a very small number of people trying to grow. Patients in the state’s medical cannabis program have the option for home grow and less than 10% of the near 80,000 registered participants actually use home grow. Allowing home grow in the recreational cannabis law will reduce the illicit cannabis market. A recreational cannabis bill without a home grow option is only fostering the failed war on drugs and would not allow for social injustices to be fully addressed.

Home grow does not enable an illicit cannabis market, we have already seen in Oregon, Washington, and California that cannabis industry business contribute the most to the black market.  [Hidden in Plain Sight: California Illegal Cannabis Market Booming | 
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | August 16, 2019 |]

Part 2: What practices and standards should be regulated?
Accredited Training and Education
These requirements are missing and there should be a mandated accredited educational requirement for every person employed at a recreational cannabis producer. Accredited training should be mandated for: Cultivation, Manufacturing, Distribution, and Laboratory.

Accredited educational training about cannabis is non-existent in New Mexico for the cannabis industry and bartenders and servers are required by law to have more training than current medical cannabis dispensary staff.

Training and Business Services

Cannabis Laboratory Testing
New Mexico needs to get serious about testing cannabis for safety, we are the state that tested the Atom bomb but we do not test cannabis for heavy metals. New Mexico should follow the recommendations made by Steep Hill Labs to the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee in 2017 and need to be addressed in any future recreational cannabis law.
Therefore, Safe Cannabis for Patients is Left to the States States Must Respond on Behalf of Patients”

Laboratory Training

2. Should any of these be designated to different agencies/departments?
New Mexico Department of Health and New Mexico Environment Department

[2019 HB-356; pgs 19 - 21 Link to HB-356:]

Any system of regulation should not be built on the backs of current medical cannabis laws and that is exactly what Section 6 does. 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? There is no need to hijack and take away the current infrastructure from the current medical cannabis program, making medical cannabis producers dual licensed to be a recreational producer. It needs to be done separately.

The Colorado model is the best choice to follow for New Mexico, it has been the most successful.

The legalization of cannabis for recreational use is a separate issue from safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use. Safe Access New Mexico cautions policy makers against letting the debate surrounding the legalization of cannabis for recreational use obscure the science and policy regarding the medical use of cannabis. The bill drafters and these Legislators are using the state’s Medical Cannabis Program as a gateway to Recreational Cannabis Legalization for favoring the business profits and potential taxes over taking the path that will result in the greatest harm reduction that will better fulfill those social justice promises.

“Currently, licensed medical cannabis producers who also want to apply for a separate license under the adult recreational use program would have to maintain one-third of their inventory for medical cannabis.”

So ⅔ of all cannabis products for a dual licensed producers goes to recreational use and they are required to maintain ⅓ for medical cannabis patients and all licensed place must sell to the recreational person and the medical cannabis program patient or caregiver.

That is Less cannabis for the Medical Cannabis Patient and gives priority to the Recreational Consumer. [Day 4: “Legal pot or not? Protecting NM’s Medical Marijuana Industry”]

Dual licensure will also result in the state violating the medical cannabis program law as they would not be able to fulfill the Purpose of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act; “Section 2. PURPOSE OF ACT.—The purpose of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act 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.”

Nor would the state be able to maintain adequate supply when ⅔ of cannabis stock is dedicated for recreational purposes.

And just as Secretary of Health Kathyleen Kunkel told this Working Group about other states with medical cannabis programs and what happened to those programs after recreational cannabis legalization. ALL of those state medical cannabis programs have suffered, legalization has not benefited any state’s medical cannabis program to date.

Dual Licensure in this proposed format means the Governor would be breaking this promise, “As governor, I will work to legalize recreational cannabis in a way that protects medical cannabis patients’ access, prioritizes public safety, and generates state revenues.”

The Dept. of Health also reported, in the fiscal impact report for HB-356, 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.

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

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 the legalization of cannabis for recreational use obscure the science and policy regarding the medical use of cannabis.

Medical cannabis patients in New Mexico deserve safe access to their medicine at schools before the state legalizes cannabis for other people to party with.

Medical cannabis patients in New Mexico deserve safe access to medical cannabis in hospitals and medical facilities, like little kids going through the horrors of cancer treatment at UNM, before the state legalizes recreational cannabis use.

Medical cannabis patients in New Mexico deserve safe access to medical cannabis in hospice care facilities and senior retirement communities before the state legalizes cannabis for other people to have fun with.

Our Military Veterans and First Responders deserve safe and equal access to medical cannabis before the state legalizes cannabis for other people to party with.

Any state educational institution of higher learning should have safe access to research medical cannabis and the state’s medical cannabis program before legalization ruins that potential research.

All doctors and prescribing medical professionals in the State of New Mexico should have safe access to recommend the use of medical cannabis to their patients or patient's caregiver with having to follow a “qualifying conditions list” before recreational cannabis legalization.

Form follows Function and Policy makers in New Mexico and the US for that matter- these Lawmakers need to stop using the debate surrounding the legalization of cannabis for recreational use to obscure the science and policy regarding the harm reduction achievements of decriminalizing cannabis and the medical use of cannabis.

In today’s era of how legalization, cannabis taxation and financial profits of cannabis has spread, the distinction matters and this behoves policy makers to follow a process that achieves the greatest harm reduction.

For the sake of integrity and compassion that is what should be done.

[2019 HB-356; pgs 26 - 29 Link to HB-356:]

Regulation should be place with Dept. of Health, Agriculture Department, and Environment Department.

Nothing in the proposed recreational cannabis law should have any impact on the medical cannabis programs personal production license and its rules and regulations.

Patient Cultivation
Background: All state laws, with the exception of New Jersey’s, have recognized the need for patients to self-cultivate medical cannabis.

Findings: Because cannabis comes in literally thousands of different strains with very different effects on the body, it is important for patients to be able to determine which strains work best for their particular condition and to be allowed to cultivate those strains for consistency and quality. In addition, obtaining cannabis from the illicit market or through legal distribution centers can be prohibitively expensive for patients, whereas self-cultivation can significantly reduce that financial burden. Patients should not have to rely exclusively on a centralized production and distribution system, which often falls short in meeting their needs.

Position: Patients should have the right to grow their own medical cannabis in a variety of ways. Patient cultivation is necessary to ensure that patients have safe and affordable access to medical cannabis. []

Not allowing a recreational consumer to have to right to choose in growing their own cannabis is not legalization. A right to be able to grow a minimum of 6 cannabis plants must be part of a proposed recreational cannabis law. A legalization bill without home grow is still fostering the stigmas of the failed War on Drugs.

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).

These articles show how the black market largely comes from commercial operations and not from the consumer or patient:

“Oregon's black market now has plenty of cannabis for sale thanks to the extremely poor legalization policies there allowing dirty cannabis on the streets:
"His small grow-op had folded, in part due to a pesticide test, and the state demanded he destroy piles of his skunky-sweet leftovers.
Frustrated, he soon broke the law. When it came time to trash the rest of the crop, he logged into the state’s cannabis tracking software system and listed it as “destroyed.” But instead of actually tossing it, he handed some of it off to a friend, who converted it to THC known as “shatter” and sold it illegally out of state. "
It's that easy to fake a lab test or compliance report...
And California:
1st year of recreational marijuana sales in California impacted by growing black market

The Colorado model should be followed for allowing home cultivation.

[2019 HB-356; pg. 55 Link to HB-356:]

Recreational cannabis should NOT be paired with gaming and gambling at New Mexico casinos or racinos, most of which are on Federal tribal land. Use on federal land is illegal: Since cannabis is still illegal under federal law, you can’t use on federal land, including national parks and national forests.

“Think about a dispensary in a casino and how many people visit casinos, or at Balloon Fiesta time,” “I think it would impact it positively.”

Article: Gaming and cannabis industries remain far apart in Nevada | Las Vegas Sun |May 30 2019 |


One reason State Run Stores are being suggested is because some New Mexico Legislators believe that State Run Stores regulate cannabis dosing and cannabis content better. This belief is completely false and there is not any scientific research or medical research suggesting that State Run Cannabis Stores can do that.

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.

Making the State of New Mexico the business owner and operator for all recreational cannabis stores in New Mexico would be a huge mistake and result in very little if any cannabis tourism for the state. In Washington, the city of North Bonneville has the only government owned recreational cannabis dispensary in the US, opened in 2015. Four years later, the city has yet to turn a profit and is still paying off debt from opening the government owned dispensary.

State run cannabis stores would result in complete breakdown and failure of the cannabis distribution supply chain and the proposed dual licensure would cause this to impact the medical cannabis program as well.

The Americans For Safe Access State of the State’s 2019 Report has an infographic on pages 45 and 46 showing how the distribution supply chain works effectively for medical cannabis (infographic images provided below). Both Utah and Louisiana had planned on using State Run Stores for medical cannabis distribution, the failure of the State Run Store system model exposed in the infographics below have both those states rethinking their distribution plans. []

Recognition and Regulation of Distribution Centers
Background: Based on the positive impact of California’s distribution system, other medical cannabis states have decided to address this important issue of safe access. Some states like Maine, New Mexico and Rhode Island, preferred a state-regulated medical cannabis distribution system. While other states like California, Colorado, Michigan and Montana have preferred to regulate distribution at the local level. Regardless of the methodology, however, the trend is moving toward enhanced access to medical marijuana as a result of regulated distribution systems.

Findings: After conducting a study on the impact of local medical cannabis dispensary regulations in California, Americans for Safe Access found that reasonable regulations not only improve the lives of patients through increased access and availability, but that they also reduce crime and community complaints around those dispensaries. In many cases, dispensaries actually helped to revitalize struggling neighborhoods. On the other hand, unreasonable or onerous regulations can have the effect of cutting off access to medical cannabis and can act as de facto bans on distribution in communities that rely on such access.

Position: ASA supports the sensible regulation of dispensaries to the extent that such regulations recognize the legality of medical marijuana distribution and offer reasonable methods to comply with local and state laws.

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.

[ About 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.

The new health conditions added to the medical cannabis program 2018-2019, five (5) of those new ones are from the Petitions submitted to the Dept. of Health by 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 recreational cannabis industry.]