Jason Barker is an advocate for Safe Access New Mexico, an Affiliate of Americans For Safe Access. He is also a freelance writer for Cannabis News Journal and he is a medical cannabis patient in New Mexico. Mr. Baker’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. Mr. Baker lives in Albuquerque with his dog, Tecumseh, who has a very severe case of canine epilepsy.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this guest opinion column written by Jason Barker are those of Mr. Barker and do not necessarily reflect those of the www.petedinelli.com blog. Further, Mr. Baker has paid no consideration for its publication and has given his consent to publication. www.PeteDinelli.com has not been paid any compensation to publish the guest column.
Following is the guest column written by Mr. Baker was submitted to this blog for publication:
“This week, New Mexico’s citizen legislature returns to the Roundhouse in Santa Fe where all 112 legislators are gearing up for what is expected to be a fast and furious legislative session. The entire Legislature is also up for election later this year in November.
The Second Session of the 54th Legislature is only a 30 day session, limited to budgetary matters and those items placed on the governor’s agenda, or “call”, the Session will conclude on February 20th 2020 at noon. And for the second year in a row, the robust oil production in southeastern New Mexico is leaving the state flush with additional new budget money to the tune of $797 million.”
REVENUES FROM RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA NOT NEEDED
The last two weeks we have all seen the talk on the news and in the newspapers about the Governor’s agenda for the legislature with recreational cannabis legalization dominating those priorities in the news. Since legislators in the Roundhouse have $797 million coming in for the new budget year, there is absolutely no need to fast track recreational cannabis legalization for New Mexico in 2020 during a limited 30-day session.
Those are the two obvious reasons why legalization is not a legislative necessity in 2020 nor is New Mexico ready for legalization. The Governor has all that new money coming in and it is such a limited 30-day session. Also remember, last year the state had $1.2 billion come in from the oil boom and then in early December 2019, KOB 4 news reported that nearly $1 billion worth of capital outlay grant money was never allocated by lawmakers due to “lack of communication.”
DYSFUNCTIONAL “CITIZEN LEGISLATURE”
“With all that money coming in over those two years, the Governor has missed a huge opportunity and a chance to fix the biggest problem in the state: A dysfunctional “citizen legislature” that is more properly termed a “volunteer legislature” because our legislators are unpaid and they all must have outside jobs, businesses or other sources of income.
This current structure of our citizen legislature is holding New Mexico back, being the last state without a professional hybrid style legislature is holding New Mexico back from true success. It takes New Mexico’s legislature 2 ½ years to equal the same legislative work done in just one year in other state legislatures, like Colorado’s.
[It’s] … is also worth pointing out that none of the 11 current states with legal recreational cannabis did so with a legislature structured like New Mexico’s “volunteer legislature”. This makes the ethics of the legislative process much more important as our state tackles the legalization debate because our legislators are unpaid and they all must have outside jobs, businesses or other sources of income.”
MEDICAL CANNABIS IN SCHOOLS BILL
“The biggest problem with the Governor’s push for recreational cannabis legalization in 2020 is that doing so would defy Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s very own campaign promise made about legalization.
For starters, … Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham wants the medical marijuana program protected in any legislation legalizing a commercial marijuana industry.”
See: ‘Legal pot or not? A New Mexico debate’ | ABQ Journal 2019 |
Unfortunately, 2019 has been a very rough year for the state medical cannabis program participants. The state has three medical cannabis laws on the books, all three have multiple violations currently happening, and all of these violations are being ignored by the State of New Mexico. Even more disappointing was how we saw more medical cannabis program participants get arrested in 2019 for doing what the law allows, than the last four years of Governor Martinez’s administration combined.
The first one of these violations stems from last year’s legislative session when lawmakers passed SB-204, the Medical Cannabis in Schools bill and the Governor signed it into law. The policy guidance for the medical cannabis in schools law, by the Public Education Department, states that the Department of Health is not going to allow school personnel to administer medical cannabis to patients in the state’s medical cannabis program. This policy guidance from the PED is changing the law and the PED has ignored the work of the state’s legislature.
The PED did this by allowing APS, Rio Rancho, and schools across the state to continue to discipline students and their families by not allowing for the “reasonable accommodation” part of the new law, forcing parents or caregivers to come to the child’s school to give the medicine.
The “medical cannabis in school’s law” is written very clearly and the Public Education Department does not have the ability to change how the law was written or the intent of how the law was written. And that’s exactly what has happened.
The Governor and her office have completely ignored this matter, as the education clause of the New Mexico Constitution guarantees a “uniform system of free public schools sufficient for the education of, and open to, all the children of school age…” And they are ignoring this while the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit is active, that case addresses the Public Education Departments disparities across the State of New Mexico. And the PED’s failure to follow the “medical cannabis in schools law” just added to that disparities problem.
Amending and fixing the medical cannabis in school law should be a 2020 legislative priority before recreational cannabis legalization, according to that promise made by the Governor. I have even taken the liberty of writing an amended SB-204 mock bill, providing it to last year’s bill sponsors. Hopefully the Governor allows them to do their duty as elected officials.”
NM MEDICAL CANNABIS PROGRAM RESULTS IN INADEQUATE SUPPLY
“Today the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program has over 80,257 registered participants with almost 300 of those participants being pediatric medical cannabis patients.
The Dept. of Health has issued 35 licenses for the production of medical cannabis but currently there are only 34 active licenses and those 34 producers operate over 85 dispensaries across New Mexico. One producer had their license taken away by the Department of Health and nothing has been done to license a new program producer.
These 34 medical cannabis producers are now growing 39,400 cannabis plants in a 3-5-month cycle which only provides ½ of a medical cannabis plant worth of medicine per patient. And this is another violation of the law that is occurring, the state has a serious issue with adequate supply for the medical cannabis program. “Adequate Supply” is a program legal requirement in the original medical cannabis program law, Lynn And Erin Compassionate Use Act, and that legal requirement is not being followed.
The Governor also promised to increase the program’s adequate supply for the current producers and to license new ones and that did not happen in 2019.
New Mexico hasn’t ever done any research into medical cannabis production and dosage for the medical cannabis program for establishing a cannabis plant count to provide “Adequate Supply”, and there is even an excellent medical cannabis research program at UNM that could do this for the state.
It makes complete sense for the state of New Mexico to know how much cannabis they will need to grow for the medical cannabis program before trying to legalize recreational cannabis. Right now, the state has no idea.
Another violation of the law happened in December 2019 when the Department of Health, the Medical Cannabis Program Office and the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board was unable to fulfill their duties and responsibilities for the program law. The advisory board shall convene at least twice per year and they did not have legal quorum for the December 2nd meeting.
New Mexico needs to fix the medical cannabis program before passing a recreational cannabis law, period.”
GOVERNOR’S WORKING GROUP RECOMMENDATIONS ADOPTS NEW MODEL
“The Governor’s Legalization Work Group recommends adopting a totally new model for a joint medical-adult use program in New Mexico and that is very serious fatal flaw that will devastate New Mexico’s medical cannabis program. Using the state’s medical cannabis program for a recreational cannabis law is ethically wrong to be doing. And there is a very good reason why no other state has that model, as it will ruin any medical cannabis program in any state because it is a system of regulation being built on the backs of current medical cannabis laws.
Cannabis policy experts from Americans For Safe Access have noted that recreational cannabis use and medical cannabis use only have the criminal justice system in common. A joint medical-adult use program will result in the destruction of the medical cannabis program in our state because its regulations and supply chain are not designed for a joint program.
Representative Javier Martinez told NM Political Report that his intention is to “ensure social equity and that cannabis patients have enough affordable medicine.”
The timeline for Social Equity in the Cannabis Regulation Act does not happen until 2022, putting those candidates at a severe disadvantage trying to enter the new industry. Social Equity is only a carrot on a stick in this bill.
Nor does the Cannabis Regulation Act provide the medical cannabis program with “adequate supply” of medical cannabis products for patients, the bill actually allows the Recreational Consumer to have more possession rights and more buying power over the medical cannabis community.
It would be a dishonest statement for any elected official or anyone for that matter to claim this bill “protects the medical cannabis program” because of how the Cannabis Regulation Act changes “adequate supply” and that prevents patients from having the uninterrupted availability of cannabis for a period of three months and that is derived solely from an intrastate source.
Preventing that also defies the purpose of the state’s medical cannabis program law; 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.
Since the medical cannabis program has over 80,257 registered participants, the 34 licensed producers are only growing those 39,400 cannabis plants which currently only provides ½ (half) of a medical cannabis plant worth of medicine per patient. The Cannabis Regulation Act wants allow anyone over 21 years old to access that already very limited supply.
That’s a recipe for disaster and lawmakers are blatantly ignoring that fact to push legalization in 2020.
Another way to look at this adequate supply issue would be in terms of chile, would the chile farmers in our state be able to meet demand for everyone if they were all only limited to growing 40,000 chile plants?”
AMEND CANNABIS REGULATION ACT
“The Cannabis Regulation Act needs to be amended with its own set of producers licensed separately for growing cannabis and its own separate plant count and its own separate dispensary system.
If lawmakers in New Mexico are going to take on the Failed War on Drugs in 2020, then please finish what you started with Medical Cannabis in 1978.
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. Later renamed The Lynn Pierson Marijuana & Research Act set forth a program that had over 250 New Mexicans receiving medical cannabis.
Also consider this: In other states with medical cannabis programs, after recreational cannabis legalization, ALL of those state medical cannabis programs have suffered … legalization has not benefited any states 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 in Illinois in 2020, after only two weeks of recreational cannabis sales, medical cannabis patients started facing shortages for their medicine that could last more than six months.”
RECREATIONAL CANNABIS NEEDS A SPECIAL SESSION
“Lawmakers can defer recreational cannabis to a special session in the fall of 2020, if the proponents are right about the financial gains for the state then recreational cannabis sales will easily cover the state’s cost at doing the special session for legalization.
As a medical cannabis patient, and advocate, I do not support the recreational legalization bill state legislators and Drug Policy Alliance have planned for the 2020 legislative session, nor does Safe Access New Mexico, as it will cause great harm to the current medical cannabis program. And we will not support that type of policy until the discrimination against children and others in the Medical Cannabis Program has ended and legislation is passed into law Repairing and Expanding the current neglected medical cannabis program laws.
New Mexico needs to fix the medical cannabis program before passing a recreational cannabis law, period.”
BELOW ARE LINKS FOR RELATED NEWS ARTICLES:
‘Dad pleads for medical cannabis’ | Friday, November 22nd, 2019 | ABQ Journal
“New Mexico as it stands just does not have the logistics for recreation, said Chad Lozano, secretary of the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Patients Advocate Alliance.”
‘Medical cannabis experts caution against New Mexico’s push to legalize recreationally’ | ABC 7 KVIA |
‘Medical marijuana users struggle to keep up with costs’ | Nov. 2019 | ABQ Journal |
‘Mixed responses to suggestions from marijuana legalization work group’ | NM Political Report |
LINKS TO RELATED BLOG ARTICLES