Which States Have Legal Weed and Where Could it Be Legal After the 2018 Midterms?

Canada became the second and largest country in the world to bolster a national marijuana marketplace after legalizing cannabis possession and use from Wednesday.

Canada’s framework for launching legal marijuana sales, including taxing, monitoring and regulating the drug’s distribution and sale, could serve as a reference for the United States if the government were to declassify and decriminalize the drug.

While 30 states around the country have already adopted some form of legal marijuana use, whether recreational or medicinal, the leafy plant remains illegal at the federal level. The Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for scheduling and classifying narcotics, says that marijuana is as dangerous and addictive as heroin and ecstasy.

But the upcoming midterm elections could cause some major changes in America’s marijuana policy.

While it may not be as strong of a national campaign issue as immigration or health care, marijuana policy has made it onto the ballot in a handful of states where voters will be able to decide for themselves whether the drug should be legalized. Initiatives in Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Utah will offer voters the opportunity to expand legal weed.

The high-inducing plant may also have some influence in the battle for the House of Representatives and the Senate this November.

While the Republican Party has radically adjusted its point of view on the drug, becoming more ambivalent to legalization efforts over the past five years, establishment GOP members continue to take a hardline stance. But the overwhelming public support in favor of ending marijuana prohibition, with about six-in-10 Americans supporting legalization, could spell even more trouble for the GOP this election cycle.

Democrats, on the other hand, have been much more supportive of marijuana legalization over the years but have not made cannabis reform a top priority heading into Election Day. But in states where marijuana issues are on the ballot, there could be a potential surge in liberal voters that may help boost Democrats flip Republican-held seats in the House and Senate. Marijuana could also help moderate Democrats in red states keep their congressional seat, like Senators Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.

Here’s where weed is already legal in the United States and where it could be legal after the 2018 midterm elections this November.

Legal Weed:

Nine states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use, including:

Alaska: Adults age 21 and up can legally smoke marijuana for recreational use.

California: The first state to legalize medicinal marijuana in 1996, California became even more pot-friendly in 2016 when it made it legal for adults to use and carry up to an ounce of marijuana. Though some cities in the state, including Fresno and Bakersfield, have moved to ban recreational sales.

Colorado: The state fully legalized the drug in 2012.

Maine: A ballot initiative in 2016 gave Mainers the right to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Lawmakers also reached an agreement on legalization, and marijuana dispensaries are expected to open by 2019.

Massachusetts: Recreational sale of marijuana began in July 2018.

Nevada: Residents and tourists can legally buy marijuana for recreational use.

Oregon: Marijuana has been legal for recreational use in Oregon since 2015.

Vermont: Lawmakers in Vermont voted to legalize recreational marijuana use in January 2018.

Washington: The state allows residents to recreationally buy and carry marijuana, but they must have a medicinal need for the drug in order to be eligible for a grower’s license.

Washington D.C.: Those in the nation’s capital have been able to enjoy marijuana recreationally since 2015.

legal marijuana dispensary Sales associate, Crystal Guess packages up a patient’s cannabis inside a Good Meds medical cannabis center in Lakewood, Colorado, in 2013. States with legal marijuana laws could increase after the 2018 midterm elections. Matthew Staver/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Twenty-two states have legalized marijuana in some form for medicinal use, including:

Arizona

Arkansas

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

Hawaii

Illinois

Louisiana

Maryland

Michigan

Minnesota

Montana

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

West Virginia

2018 Midterm Elections: Marijuana Reform Ballot Measures

Michigan: Voters on November 6 will decide on Proposal 1, which would allow Michigan residents over the age of 21 to possess and grow a certain amount of cannabis for personal use. Polling done earlier this month indicated that the law has a good chance of being approved by voters, with 62 percent of registered voters saying they intend to support the measure.

Missouri: Voters will have the opportunity to decide on ballot questions focused specifically on medicinal marijuana access. There are three separate ballot proposals for voters to weigh in, which include different taxes on the drug for veterans services, biomedical research, drug treatment, education and law enforcement. Currently, all three proposals are polling over 60 percent.

North Dakota: While North Dakota already legalized marijuana for medicinal use in 2016, voters will now have the chance to support full legalization for recreational adult use. If the measure is enacted, not only would adults be able to legally buy and use the drug but also most prior cannabis convictions would be expunged. The limited amount of polling in North Dakota make the likelihood of the measure passing difficult to predict. But those who oppose the initiative are fighting hard to block it and have raised more campaign cash than marijuana supporters.

Utah: Right now, marijuana in any form is outlawed in Utah. But in November voters will be deciding on Proposition 2, which would regulate the production and distribution of medicinal cannabis products for qualifying patients. Smoking marijuana would still be illegal even if the measure is passed, meaning that qualifying patients would need to consume edibles or use vaporizers in order to ingest the drug. The measure seemed sure to pass, but a pollreleased on Tuesday shows that support for the initiative was at 51 percent.

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Despite increased acceptance, obstacles remain for legalizing recreational marijuana

A majority of New Mexico voters support legalizing recreational marijuana. And a governor who opposes the idea will leave office at the start of the year, giving hope to some supporters of the idea.

But even if New Mexico’s next governor supports the legalization of recreational marijuana, a familiar obstacle would still stand in the way: the state Senate.

State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino has sponsored legislation to legalize recreational marijuana since 2014. He’s tried with constitutional amendments in the past, but if Michelle Lujan Grisham, who supports legalization, wins office then the effort will go through regular statue.

And he knows that even though public sentiment has shifted, 2019 still won’t be the year things go his way.

“It’s going to be tough,” Ortiz y Pino told NM Political Report. “The House will probably vote for it. The Senate is going to be its usual thirty-years-behind-the-times self.”

The Albuquerque Democrat attributed opposition in part to the age of senators.

“I think it’s a generational or a cultural thing more than anything,” Ortiz y Pino said.

This isn’t stopping supporters from working to make legalization of recreational marijuana a reality.

Emily Kaltenbach, the director of the New Mexico chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance, noted that of the eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana, only one state has done so through the legislative process–Vermont. All other states, including New Mexico’s northern neighbor, Colorado, legalized recreational marijuana through ballot initiatives. New Mexico law, however, does not provide for statewide ballot initiatives.

Kaltenbach says Vermont is “a model for states to follow a path to get through a legislative process.”

There are benefits to passing the effort through the legislative process–like no need for an expensive, likely contentious and time-consuming campaign.

Kaltenbach said the Drug Policy Alliance is already working on the steps to move the bill through the Legislature.

One step is to get feedback and buy-in from many stakeholders and communities, including law enforcement, the medical cannabis community and others.

Kaltenbach says the Drug Policy Alliance has worked on a bill that would include protections for children, medical cannabis patients and drivers. But they still want feedback.

“We’re holding a series of community conversations around the state,” she said. “We plan to take this to clinicians, we plan to take it to the business community, with the faith-based communities.”

The Drug Policy Alliance thinks that revenue from taxes on recreational marijuana should go towards things like funding Medicaid or programs for drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Still, she acknowledges the tough pathway to legalization.

“We have yet to get a piece of legislation through both chambers,” Kaltenbach said. “So even if the governor is open to signing a bill, that doesn’t mean that in this next year there is something to the governor’s desk.”

Ortiz y Pino also thinks that the revenue from marijuana sales could help the state. He previously said the money would go towards various efforts to improve the state, including money for public schools and substance abuse and behavioral health programs.

Senate

In 2016, the effort reached the floor of the Senate as a constitutional amendment. Passing that legislation would have required a majority of the chamber, not just those voting, but also would have bypassed the governor and instead gone to voters for approval.

The Senate voted against the proposed amendment 17-24.

Six Democrats voted against the proposal, and are unlikely to change their minds. Some changes in the Senate since then include two Republicans losing to Democrats, with one Democratic supporter losing to a Republican.

Ortiz y Pino thinks a change in approach could change the minds of some Republicans, giving an alternate pathway to passage.

“I don’t want to count on them, but several of them have indicated to me it’s certainly something they could support if it’s not a constitutional amendment,” Ortiz y Pino said. “That was the excuse they gave previously for voting against it, that it didn’t belong in the constitution.”

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A beginner’s guide to cannabis

It’s almost here — ready or not! And from the sounds of it, the majority of people and businesses are just not ready. A big part of the reason this general unpreparedness is that for those that don’t normally ingest cannabis, it is an enigma of sorts, which until now has also been illegal in most countries. So, to simply open the cannabis doors, much like taking your finger out of the proverbial dyke, and say, “Have at it,” is not only causing a lot of confusion for people, but also even some fear. As with most fears, however, a little knowledge can go a long way to alleviate it. In an effort to help demystify this ancient plant, here are some cannabis basics.

What exactly is cannabis?

Some of the biggest confusion surrounding cannabis is that you will get “high” if you take it. While this is definitely the case for some types, not all cannabis is designed for this purpose. Recreational and medical cannabis are two very different things, which is where a lot of the sigma about people taking prescription cannabis stems from.

Cannabis is derived from the cannabis plant, which has grown wild in many countries for literally thousands of years, although it is thought to have originated in Asia. When talking about cannabis it is good to know there are two subspecies of the plant: Cannabis sativa, also known as marijuana, which has psychoactive properties, Cannabis sativa L., known as hemp. Hemp is then non-psychoactive form of the plant, and is widely used to manufacture things such as hemp oil, clothing and food products and even fuel.

Cannabis contains roughly 400 chemicals, 80 (although that number is rising as research continues) of which are called cannabinoids and are unique to the plant. Most people have heard of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which was first isolated and synthesized in 1964. This is the chemical responsible for the plant’s psychoactive properties. THC is responsible for the relaxed, sleepy, hungry and euphoric sensations people experience when using. THC potency in dried cannabis averages 15 per cent today, although some strains can average as much as 30 per cent THC. Anything less than.3 per cent is considered hemp.

The other key cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), which makes up about 40 per cent of the plant, and does not have intoxicating effects like THC, thus does not cause the “high” associated with cannabis. CBD is shown in numerous studies to have a wide range of healing effects, which is why it is widely used in most medical cannabis for such things as pain, inflammation, anxiety, seizures and a growing number of other medical issues.

What effects you will experience from cannabis are thus highly dependent on the THC-to-CBD ratio.

What form of cannabis will become legal in Canada?

Medical cannabis has been legal with a prescription since 2001. The federal government is legalizing recreational cannabis this year, which will now be sold through the NSLC in Nova Scotia. People who use medical cannabis will still get their prescriptions filled through authorized licenced producers.

Types of cannabis

As the cannabis industry evolves in Canada, it is set to become similar to the wine industry, according to local licenced producers. Like wine, cannabis has specific varietals that have their own distinct properties such as flavour, smell, quality and effects. Two of the main species of cannabis are indica, which is a shorter and stockier plant with dense buds. This plant is native to the cold, mountainous areas of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The other species is sativa, which is tall and lanky and has skinner buds. It is native to Mexico, Colombia and Thailand, where it thrives in warmer conditions.

Indicas: These strains typically cause sedentary effects, causing almost a dream-like feeling in users. Sativas: Sativas are typically known to cause more “cerebral” effects, such as creativity and give you a more energetic feeling.

Seven ways to consume cannabis

Cannabis is generally used in three forms: marijuana, hashish and hash oil. Marijuana consists of the dried flowers and leaves from the cannabis plant and is the least potent. It’s typically smoked or made into edible such as brownies or brownies. Hashish comes from the resin of the cannabis plant and is dried and pressed into small blocks that are smoked or added to edibles. Hash oil is by far the most potent form of cannabis and looks like a thick oil derived from hashish.

Whether medical or recreational, there are essentially seven ways to consume cannabis.

Smoking: This has been the most common way to ingest cannabis for centuries. Much like tobacco, you roll dried cannabis flowers into a “joint” and smoke it. The effects are felt almost immediately and tend to peak within the first 10 minutes and then dissipate over the next one to three hours. When legalized, people can purchased the dried, fresh and even pre-rolled cannabis directly from a participating NSLC store.

  • Vaporizing: You have no doubt seen people “vaping” as a way to quit smoking or simply for pleasure. A much healthier alternative to smoking, people can use similar devices like smoke-free “vape pens” to consume cannabis. Cannabis is heated below combustion temperature to extract the THC, CBD and other active ingredients. This method is not only easier on your lungs, but it delivers more precise doses and doesn’t leave the distinct cannabis smell on your clothes, furniture etc. Depending on the type of vaporizer you own, you can use dried cannabis or concentrated oils. Similar to smoking, the effects of vaporizing cannabis are felt almost immediately and the fade.
  • Dabbing: This is definitely not for new users. Although it is another form of vaporizing, it is essentially flash-vaporization. Cannabis concentrates are dropped onto a heated water-pipe attachment and then inhaled, resulting in a more potent effect than regular vaping.
  • Edibles: pre-made edibles will not be available for sale though the NSLC at first (not until 2019), but there are many recipes available online to create your own. Beware, however, as this form is typically highly potent, so until you understand the effects of cannabis, you should start out slowly. One of the reasons people tend to overdo it on edibles is that the effects are gradual and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to kick in and they can last several hours. To start, you should only use one to 2.5 mg of THC concentrate and gradually increase over time until you find the desired dosing, according to most experts.
  • Topicals: These include such things as lotions, gels, oils and balms that you use topically and are absorbed through your skin. These can be a good option for people who want to experience the medicinal effects without the intoxicating effects since the active ingredients don’t enter the bloodstream but can offer localized relief of pain, muscle stiffness and soreness, and inflammation.

Concentrates (ingestible oils): Extracts are highly concentrated forms of cannabis and can have THC levels that range from 50 to 80 per cent. Because of this, unless you are prescribed a certainly dosage by a physician, who can monitor your reactions, concentrates are not recommended for beginners. Ingestible oils are typically available in capsule form or plastic applicators that you consume directly or add to food or drink. Much like edibles, these concentrates oils are very powerful and can have intense effects that take time to fully kick in and can last for hours.

Tinctures: Like other herbal tinctures, cannabis tinctures are infused liquids that extract the active cannabis compounds by soaking in grain alcohol. They are typically applied directly under your tongue, but unlike concentrated oils or edibles, tinctures actually enter your bloodstream immediately, which provides fast-acting effects and ultimately, better dose control.

How to read a cannabis label

While what exactly or how it will appear on cannabis labels when it is available in stores in Canada is still to be seen, food and drug regulations will require the labels to include information on the specific amounts of active ingredients such as THC and CBD. What will be the most important thing to be aware of, especially for new cannabis users, is the amount of THC.

Not a lot of information is available yet about what strains, concentrations etc. the NSLC will carry, but when purchasing cannabis, it is best to start “slow and low” strains that are in the 10 to15 per cent THC range. If you can find one that has an equal balance of both THC and CBD (5 per cent THC and 5 percent CBD, for example) this is the best place to start since the CBD can help minimize the effects of psychoactive effects of the THC.

If you decide to use a vapourizer, go slowly. Start with one inhalation and then wait about 20 to 30 minutes as the effects take time to peak.

How to store cannabis

Along the same vein as fine wines, cannabis can easily deteriorate if stored improperly. Do not expose it to direct sunlight or heat or leave it unsealed. You can prolong the quality of cannabis by storing it in a cool, dark and dry place in a sealed container — glass jars are the best option. Cupboards, drawers and other dry, dark locations are fine, but always keep it out of reach of children and pets. Do not store in the refrigerator as it can develop mildew if too humid.

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Cannabis Oil vs. CBD Oil: Health Benefits and Legal Considerations

By Stephanie Garr

The topic of cannabis (marijuana) has become far less taboo in recent years, but there are still many misconceptions–and fears–about its use as a medicinal plant.


Cannabis is still an illegal product in most countries and can be difficult to obtain. More importantly, it is challenging to study.

Still, an increasing amount of evidence has found it could offer significant benefits for patients with chronic pain and even cancer.

This article looks at what cannabis oil is, how it differs from CBD oil, and what the science is saying about its potential.

What is Cannabis Oil?

Cannabis oil is an extract from cannabis (marijuana) plants that contains several cannabinoid compounds that bind to receptors in the brain and body.

Cannabis is one of the world’s oldest cultivated plants, with its use dating back some 8,000 years ago (1).

As of now, more than a 100 of its active compounds have been detected, but there are two that have been studied the most:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD): This is the active ingredient in CBD oil that has been shown to display anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects.
  • Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): This is the substance in marijuana that is most known for getting you “high.”

While the term “cannabis oil” may be used to describe any cannabis-based oil (like CBD oil or hemp seed oil), it typically refers to the specific extract that contains all components of marijuana, including THC.

Summary: Cannabis oil is an extract from cannabis (marijuana) plants. It contains all active ingredients in the plant, including CBD and THC.

Cannabis Oil vs CBD Oil … What’s The Difference?

Unlike cannabis oil, which is typically made from marijuana with a high THC percentage (typically at least 50%), CBD oil does not contain this mind-altering compound.

In other words, CBD oil does not get you “high,” but could offer some helpful benefits.

Many natural health proponents have been touting CBD oil and its potential to relieve chronic pain, reduce anxiety and depression, and alleviate cancer symptoms, among several other benefits.

Because it doesn’t contain THC, CBD oil is legal in all 50 states of the U.S., Canada and all of Europe (except for Slovakia).

Summary: Unlike cannabis oil, which is typically made from marijuana with a high THC percentage, CBD oil does not contain this mind-altering compound.

Is Cannabis Oil Illegal?

Because it contains THC, cannabis oil can only be purchased in an area where marijuana is legal or can be prescribed.

In the U.S., marijuana is legal for both recreational and medicinal use in nine states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, along with Washington, DC.

Thirty states have legalized medical marijuana for medicinal use. These include the nine mentioned above, along with:

Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

Summary: Since it contains THC, cannabis oil can only be purchased in areas where marijuana is legal or can be prescribed. This includes 30 U.S. states.

Benefits of Cannabis Oil

Because of its long-held status as an illegal Schedule I drug, research on cannabis has been limited.

Fortunately, a growing number of studies on cannabis have focused on its potential health benefits, mostly regarding appetite, nausea and pain.

Cannabis oil would likely offer similar benefits as CBD oil. However, it’s possible that its addition of THC could provide further benefits.

THC is a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory and anti-emetic (prevents vomiting).

Using the whole marijuana plant versus part of it (like with CBD oil) could also provide extra synergetic effects. This however, is difficult to study.

There are currently a few licensed cannabis-based drugs on the market including:

  • Dronabinol (Marinol) / Nabilone (Cesamet): Both are synthetic forms of THC used to counteract nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and to stimulate appetite in AIDS patients.
  • Nabiximols (Sativex): Contains an equal amount of THC and CBD and used to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and pain in cancer patients.
  • Epidiolex: A concentrated CBD oil used as an anti-seizure medication for children with epilepsy (2).

Cannabis Oil for Cancer

Many cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, have shown some anti-cancer effects.

Most significantly, cannabinoids may have the ability (at least in test tube studies) to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and promote the death of cancer cells by apoptosis (3).

That said, while THC has shown promise in cancer studies, it’s also shown the potential to suppress the immune system and enhance tumor growth (4).

Clearly, much more research needs to be done to determine how cannabinoids, at specific concentrations, may work best for cancer treatment.

Cannabis Oil for Pain Relief

Cannabis oil is a potent anti-inflammatory and can provide significant pain relief, likely more so than just CBD oil.

In fact, THC was shown to have 20 times the anti-inflammatory potency of aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone (5).

THC has been found to reduce pain in patients with cancer and MS, and cannabis treatment has proven effective for those with fibromyalgia (6, 7).

Summary: Research on cannabis has been limited, but is quickly growing. Cannabis oil would likely offer similar benefits as CBD oil, but may offer even greater potential with the addition of THC, which is a proven pain reliever and anti-inflammatory.

Side Effects of Cannabis Oil

It can be difficult to obtain certified cannabis oils that provide specific concentrations and guarantee purity.

Some cannabis oils may even contain up to 75% THC (8).

Commercially produced cannabis oils for medical purposes are most dependable since they will have controlled concentrations of CBD and THC.

The addition of THC in cannabis oil will cause some side effects, including:

  • The feeling of being “high”
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Reduced memory and learning ability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased appetite.

It’s also noteworthy to mention that CBD actually helps control the psychoactive effects of THC, so a good balance of both may be important.

Summary: It can be difficult to know the concentrations and purity of cannabis oil products, so you will likely not know how much THC and CBD they contain. The presence of THC will cause you to feel “high,” and may also lead to fatigue, reduced memory and increased appetite.

How to Make Cannabis Oil

Although cannabis oil has only started to find legal status in certain areas, plenty of people have been handcrafting their own for some time.

If you’re able to obtain cannabis legally, you can easily make your own version of cannabis oil, which allows you to control the amount and type of cannabis used.

Canadian cannabis expert Rick Simpson is often cited for his groundbreaking work creating a cannabis oil, now referred to as Rick Simpson Oil or RSO.

He made his own cannabis oil to help treat his skin cancer, and has shared this recipe here.

Cannabis Coconut Oil

Another way to consume cannabis oil is with cannabis coconut oil.

The saturated fats in coconut oil help preserve the cannabinoids, making it a more potent and effective cannabis product.

Cannabis-infused coconut oil can be used topically, consumed on its own or used as a cooking oil just like normal coconut oil. You can also put it into capsules for measured doses.

This site offers a good recipe for cannabis coconut oil.

Summary: If you’re able to obtain cannabis legally, you can make your own version of cannabis oil at home. Cannabis coconut oil can also be made and consumed on its own or used topically or as a cooking oil.

Should You Try Cannabis Oil?

The benefits of CBD oil are well established, but it’s possible cannabis oil could be even more effective.

The addition of THC, the compound that also gets you “high,” could offer greater anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and pain-relieving effects.

Because cannabis oil uses the entire marijuana plant, there may also be some other synergetic effects involved.

However, the state of cannabis’ legality has severely limited its research opportunities. Fortunately this is rapidly changing.

Early studies have found that cannabis treatment has helped patients with chronic pain, cancer, MS, AIDS and fibromyalgia.

As of now, cannabis oil is still difficult to obtain, and is legal for medicinal use in only 30 U.S. states. It’s also not regulated, so it’s hard to know how much THC you may be getting.

If you’re looking for a similar and safe alternative–and one without the “high”–you may want to seek out CBD oil first.

Stephanie is a certified nutrition consultant. She graduated from the University of Iowa with degrees in journalism and psychology in 2003, and later studied holistic nutrition at Bauman College in Berkeley, California.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Diet vs Disease.

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Libertarian says Trump, Democrats need a swing-vote senator

TUCUMCARI, N.M. — The nation rejected him in 2016 as an offbeat alternative to Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. The rest is not yet history as Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, seeks a seat in the U.S. Senate as a Libertarian and political wild card.

Johnson says his high-desert home state of 2 million residents stands to gain considerable influence in the Senate if he is elected as a freewheeling swing vote — possibly a decisive vote in the chamber, as Republicans defend a slim 51-49 majority in November elections.

Democrats are being forced to defend what had seemed like a secure seat for incumbent first-term Sen. Martin Heinrich, fending off Johnson’s allure among voters as an uncompromising fiscal conservative with a quirky brand of free-market, pro-cannabis policies.

“Arguably if elected I would be the swing vote in the U.S. Senate, and that would be a big yank for New Mexico. It should benefit New Mexico in a really big way,” Johnson tells a crowd of two dozen at a candidate forum in Tucumcari, near a string of abandoned highway-side motels, on the state’s rural eastern plains.

Nationwide, Democrats are defending 26 incumbent Senate seats, while Republicans are defending only nine. The stakes in fall Senate races have been on dramatic display in Supreme Court confirmation proceedings amid accusations of sexual misconduct against nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Johnson said he would be a voice of common sense in the Senate and a rare nonpartisan vote during Supreme Court confirmation proceedings — and an impartial judge in the event of a Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump, though he sees no impeachable offense so far.

Until then, Johnson applauds Trump’s work at diminishing regulations, and denounces White House immigration policies as shameful and bad for the economy.

The real political crisis and looming threat to America’s wellbeing, Johnson says, is runaway deficit spending. And the day of reckoning will come, according to Johnson, in the form of Venezuela-style inflation if the U.S. continues to spend beyond its means, on military and social programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

“I applaud Trump on the tax cuts, but where is the spending reduction to go along with that,” said Johnson, who wants to join the Senate Budget Committee that sets out Congress’ broad blueprint for levels of federal revenues and spending.

Prominent Democrats say Johnson can’t barge his way onto the committee, and they suspect he would readily collaborate to torpedo federal health care and nutritional subsidies that New Mexico relies on heavily.

Dede Feldman, a Democratic political strategist who served in the state Senate when Johnson was governor, questions Johnson’s credentials as a voice of moderation, noting he was held in contempt as governor by the New Mexico Supreme Court for persisting with aggressive welfare changes without legislative approval.

At a community bank in Tucumcari, Johnson finds a receptive audience for his criticism of burdensome federal financial regulation in a meeting with the board of directors — and some astonishment at his calls to decrease military spending by 23 percent, cut Medicare and retool Social Security.

“I’m 80 years old. I’m on Medicare, I receive Social Security, and I’m retired from the military,” said Bill Curry, a board member at the Tucumcari Federal Savings and Loan Association, which was founded during the 1930s Great Depression. “You’ve hit me on four different things.”

Johnson doesn’t back down, cautioning social and retirement programs won’t be around for future generations without prompt action.

He derides as a budget-buster his opponent Heinrich’s support of “Medicare-for-all” legislation aimed at making strides toward universal health insurance coverage.

Heinrich has cast himself as a defender of federal health and retirement benefits, and proponent of the new outdoor-recreation and renewable-energy economies — a progressive hedge in an oil-based state economy.

Heinrich, with youthful looks at age 46, has turned his committee appointments, including Armed Services, into a venue for expedient constituent politics in support of the New Mexico’s military facilities and veterans.

Johnson’s answer to escalating medical costs is less regulation and even easing licensing requirement for medical professionals. His faith in free-market solutions with less regulation spills over into everything from oilfield methane emissions to public education, where Johnson supports government spending on independent schools through vouchers.

Pollsters and analysts see obstacles to Johnson building a quick coalition, after his late entry to the race in August.

“There are a lot of unaffiliated registered voters, but they tend to vote in half their numbers on low-turnout elections,” said pollster Brian Sanderoff, of Research & Polling in Albuquerque. “They’re less likely to vote in nonpresidential election cycles.”

New Mexico’s Republican Party is calling Johnson a spoiler, saying he will draw votes from their candidate — construction contractor and political newcomer Mick Rich — playing directly into Democrats’ hands.

Johnson dismisses the GOP as a lost cause this year in New Mexico, which sided with Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a wide margin and twice backed Barack Obama.

“I do not think that a Republican can win a statewide race in New Mexico. I think that Trump has polluted those chances,” he said.

As a Republican governor, Johnson vetoed more than 700 bills in perpetual standoffs with a Legislature run by Democrats, vetoing the entire budget in his final year only to have legislators override him. His advocacy as governor for marijuana legalization, beginning in 1999 when the stance was unpopular, still provides a political calling card — one that Johnson says speaks to his honesty regardless of political consequences.

Campaign disclosure filings show Johnson also is an investor in the nascent legal marijuana sector and a professional adviser to a cannabis hedge fund. He is a recreational user himself — in a state that regulates medical marijuana access but still penalizes recreational cannabis.

Heinrich, the Democrat, recently threw his support behind legalizing marijuana, while Johnson already is contemplating how to provide pardons for legions of drug-possession convicts.

For Johnson, a third act in politics at age 65 would mean setting aside a lifestyle of 100-day winter ski seasons and summer endurance bicycle rallies along the Continental Divide. Barnstorming through tiny towns to shake hands and deliver yard signs, Johnson said Trump has created the perfect storm for a Libertarian or truly independent candidate to join Congress and broker majority votes — calling Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine independents in name only.

Stopping unannounced at a barbecue stand at midday, Johnson ignites flickers of recognition and then conversations that often turn to his thoughts on cannabis.

“I love his policies,” said Jace Alderson, 61, of Moriarty, recalling Johnson’s hard-line stance against government spending as a Republican governor. “It doesn’t matter what party he is.”

 

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Webber wants to urge Legislature to legalize recreational marijuana

The push to legalize recreational marijuana in New Mexico found a bud in Mayor Alan Webber on Wednesday.

Webber introduced a resolution urging the state Legislature “to support and enact legislation related to the legalization, decriminalization and/or regulation of cannabis and cannabis-related products for recreational use.”

As soon as he introduced the resolution, three city councilors — Mike Harris, Peter Ives and JoAnne Vigil Coppler — asked to sign on as co-sponsors.

“I’m kind of high on your resolution … so I would like to be a co-sponsor on that as well,” Vigil Coppler said, generating laughter.

In an interview, Webber said there are numerous reasons for New Mexico to join the other states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

“It is broadly supported, it is a new source of revenue and by making it legal, we will stop wasting our law enforcement resources on something that is really a victimless crime,” he said, adding that the state should still be concerned about youth using marijuana, as well as people who “overindulge.”

“I think it’s an intelligent step, and the state, I think, would be well served to get in line for legalizing and regulating cannabis,” the mayor added.

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This Company Says It’s Figured Out How to Perfect Weed Drinks

Trait Biosciences is trying to perfect the weed drink. Photos via Trait Biosciences/Shutterstock.

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

A couple years from now, the concept of “grabbing a drink” in Canada may have nothing to do with alcohol.

That’s because cannabis companies are investing heavily in THC and CBD infused beverages, and one biotechnology research company claims it has the technology to create the ideal cannabis drink.

Weed edibles in Canada aren’t going to be legal for another year at least–but when that time comes, many predict edibles will eat up a huge chunk of the recreational market. A Deloitte report from June found that six out of ten consumers are expected to choose edible cannabis products. In August, Constellation Brands, home of Corona beer, announced it was investing $5 billion [$4 billion USD] in Canadian licensed producer Canopy, while Molson Coors Canada is partnering with Quebec LP Hydropothecary Corporation to develop cannabis drinks. Coca-Cola is also in talks with Aurora Cannabis to produce CBD-based beverages. Suffice to say, the claim that weed drinks are the future of cannabis consumption is more than just talk.

But Ronan Levy, Chief Strategy Officer at Trait Biosciences, a biotechnology research company, told VICE there are some major concerns about edibles, particularly as they pertain to drinks. One of the main ones is the length of time it takes edibles to kick in–it’s sometimes hours before people begin to feel the effects. The reason for that, Levy said, is cannabinoids are fat soluble, so they dissolve into fat and oil. They have to travel to the large intestine to be properly digested, which is why it takes so much time for the psychoactive effects to kick in. Alcohol, on the other hand, is water soluble, which is why people feel a glass of wine or a beer within 30 minutes.

According to Levy, Trait has discovered a way to make cannabinoids water soluble and he believes it will dramatically shift the industry.

Dr. Richard Sayre, Trait’s chief scientific officer who is based out of New Mexico, told VICE the company has developed two primary methods of making cannabinoids water soluble by adding a sugar molecule to the cannabinoid.

One method, he referred to Trait’s “super producer technology,” which increases the yield of water-soluble, nontoxic cannabinoids in plants. It essentially makes more of the plant usable.

“We feed the cannabinoids to what’s called a plant cell suspension culture,” Sayre explained. “What you can do is take the individual cells of a plant apart from each other and grow them in liquid as single cells… These plant cells naturally can add the sugar to the cannabinoids without any modification.”

The other option is taking fat soluble cannabis extract–such as the oils that are already being sold by LPs–and feeding them a yeast that’s been engineered to make them water soluble.

Sayre said Trait is currently pursuing both avenues.

Fat-soluble cannabinoids “partition and separate out of the water solutions and you end up with something like salad dressing,” Sayre said, which does not make for a very marketable drink. It also has dosage issues because the THC may not be spread out evenly.

So, in layman’s terms, what does all of this potentially mean for a consumer?

According to Trait, if water-soluble cannabinoids make it to market, people will be able to have edibles with either a quick onset or a delayed onset (the latter could be used in pharmaceuticals, akin to slow release pain meds). The taste and smell of cannabinoids will be reduced, meaning tastier edibles. And you won’t have to deal with the separation or “salad dressing” type of effect that comes with fat-soluble cannabinoids.

Sayre also said he expects CBD drinks to compete with Gatorade and other sports drinks because they “not only rehydrate you but make all the aches and pains less.”

Trait is currently in the research and development phase–it raised received $12.5 million [$9.6 million USD] in seed financing.

Sayre said the company is currently doing performance trials on animals and humans which will take one to one and a half years to complete. It is also moving toward commercial-scale production which is about a year off.

The money raised will also go toward building a state of the art research facility in Toronto.

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Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.

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Marijuana ETFs: How to Find the Best Exchange-Traded Funds

The North American marijuana market is expected to skyrocket from about $9.2 billion in 2017 to $47.3 billion by 2027, according to Arcview, and as a result, pot profits could soar for marijuana companies over the next decade. The investing opportunity is potentially massive, but there are big risks to investing in cannabis. Marijuana remains illegal in the U.S. at the national level, so U.S. marijuana stocks are hamstrung by laws that increase their taxes and reduce their access to banking services. Furthermore, investments in marijuana production could result in too much supply, causing a drop in marijuana prices per pound that could hurt growers in the future.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely eliminate the risks associated with investing in marijuana, but owning a collection of marijuana companies could insulate you against any one company disappointing. If you’re interested in diversifying your exposure to this growth industry, a marijuana exchange-traded fund (ETF) could be your best bet. Here’s what you should know about the evolving cannabis market and your ETF alternatives.

A person's hand holding a marijuana leaf up toward the sky.

Image source: Getty Images.

What is marijuana?

Marijuana is the dried flower of the female cannabis sativa plant. It contains over 100 chemical cannabinoids, but the most common cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive chemical that’s found in the resin produced by the leaves and buds of the female cannabis plant.

The second most common cannabinoid in cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive chemical that helps counteract the high produced by THC.

When people use marijuana, these cannabinoids interact with receptors in our body’s natural endocannabinoid system. There are two types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 receptors that are located primarily in the brain and CB2 receptors that are mostly found elsewhere. THC’s interaction with CB1 receptors is what’s responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effect, while the interaction of marijuana’s other cannabinoids with CB2 receptors is believed to contribute to many of marijuana’s medicinal benefits, including its ability to help regulate seizures in epilepsy.

Cannabis history

Impressions from rope made from hemp, a low-THC variety of cannabis sativa, have been observed in pottery dating back to 5,000 BC and cannabis seeds have been found in the graves of people buried in China and Siberia dating back to 500 B.C.

Cannabis was predominately grown to produce hemp fibers for the manufacture of rope and textiles, but hashish, a purified cannabis, has been widely used in the Middle East and Asia since at least 800 A.D.

A fast-growing plant, cannabis is easily cultivated, particularly in warm climates. It can be planted on the same fields repeatedly without depleting soil nutrients, and because of the strength of its fibers, it was a key crop grown by U.S. colonists after their arrival in America. In fact, it was so important to England that colonists were required to grow hemp for cloth, paper, sacks, and sails on at least some of their farmland. Similarly, farmers were encouraged to grow hemp during the American revolution to overcome textile shortages due to embargoes.

Cannabis use in the U.S. was primarily industrial, but it also has a long history of use as a medicine. For instance, its use in stomach ailments increased throughout the 19th century after Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy discovered in the 1830s that cannabis extracts helped relieve stomach pain caused by cholera. By the late 1800s, cannabis extracts could be bought throughout Europe and the United States at pharmacies.

The recreational use of marijuana in the U.S. accelerated in the early 1900s because of an influx of immigrants because of the Mexican Revolution. Between 1910 and 1930, there was a tripling of immigration to the U.S. from Mexico, where marijuana had become widely used after its introduction during Spanish colonization.

Mexico passed laws making recreational marijuana illegal in 1920, and by the 1930s, most U.S. states had also passed laws regulating marijuana. Recreational marijuana was finally made illegal federally in 1937 when the U.S. Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act.

In 1970, the Marijuana Tax Act was replaced by the Controlled Substances Act, which created America’s current drug scheduling system. Marijuana was listed as a Schedule I drug, which is the category for drugs with a high risk of abuse and without a medical use, and it’s remained a Schedule I drug ever since.

The first state to legalize medical marijuana was California in 1996, but 30 states have legalized marijuana in some form since then, including nine states that have legalized it for recreational use.

The marijuana market today

Despite many states passing laws allowing marijuana’s use, marijuana’s federal status continues to be an obstacle that’s holding the industry back in America. Marijuana companies don’t have access to traditional banking services and they’re unable to deduct many business expenses from their taxes, such as administrative costs. The federal prohibition of marijuana also creates obstacles to operating across state borders.

Nevertheless, the U.S. retail marijuana market is already worth billions of dollars per year, and it’s growing quickly. According to GreenWave Advisors, the U.S. retail marijuana market was worth about $8.2 billion last year, up from $6.5 billion in 2016.

It’s not just the U.S. market that’s expanding, though. Demand is also growing rapidly in Canada, where the use of medical marijuana has been accelerating since legislation created a fully functioning medical marijuana market in 2013. In 2017, about 4.9 million Canadians spent $4.6 billion on legal medical and illegal recreational cannabis, according to Statistics Canada. However, that may only be the tip of the iceberg. Canada’s market is expected to swell in October 2018 when its recreational marijuana market opens for business nationwide. According to Deloitte, Canadians will spend $7 billion on marijuana in 2019, including $4.3 billion that will be spent on recreational marijuana.

Outside North America, important marijuana markets are also emerging in Europe. Germany, the largest member state of the European Union, established a medical marijuana market in 2017, and 13,000 people signed up for the program during its first 10 months. Since Germany’s home to 82 million people — twice the population of Canada — it could represent a big opportunity for marijuana investors.

Overall, Arcview estimates that worldwide spending on marijuana could reach $57 billion by 2027, including $47.3 billion in North America.

A man looking at a marijuana plant in a field.

Image source: Getty Images.

Marijuana stocks

The marijuana market’s rapid growth suggests that investing in marijuana stocks could be rewarding. Unfortunately, investors have limited options in terms of marijuana stocks.

In the U.S., most cannabis companies trade on the over-the-counter market. This market, which is sometimes referred to as the pink sheets because of the color of the paper that its stock prices are quoted on, has less stringent listing requirements than the New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq. The wild, wild West of exchanges, the pink sheets are often home to penny stocks, and the companies that list on it have historically been more prone to fraud.

If you want to invest in Canada’s marijuana stocks, then you’ll have to buy them on Canadian stock exchanges, including the Toronto Stock Exchange, or you’ll have to buy American depositary receipts (ADRs) that track their performance in Canada. There are a few exceptions, though, including Canopy Growth Corporation, a $5.6 billion market cap Canadian marijuana company that listed on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this year. In fiscal 2018, Canopy Growth generated $78 million in sales, and as a result, it’s one of Canada’s biggest marijuana companies. It won’t give you exposure to the United States marijuana market, though, because management decided to avoid the U.S. until it ends federal prohibition.

Another Canadian marijuana stock that trades on the major U.S. market exchanges is Tilray Inc., which became the first Canadian marijuana stock to list directly on the Nasdaq in 2018. Tilray generates about 45% of its revenue from cannabis oil sales, which historically command higher prices and offer better profit margins than dried marijuana flower. That’s a significantly higher percentage than its peers, including Canopy Growth, which generated less than 30% of its sales from oils in its fiscal first quarter of 2019. Tilray’s dominance in oils positions it to capture a healthy share of the medical market and edible marijuana markets made it one of 2018’s hottest marijuana stocks to own.

If investors want exposure to the U.S. market, but they don’t want to risk buying pink sheet stocks, then their next best option is to buy backdoor marijuana stocks, such as industry suppliers or marijuana drugmakers. However, those are imperfect ways to invest in the industry. For example, The Scotts Miracle-Gro‘s Hawthorne business supplies marijuana growers with solutions, including hydroponics, but marijuana represents only a sliver of the company’s overall performance. In second-quarter 2018, Hawthorne accounted for less than 7.5% of Scotts’ sales.

Similarly, marijuana drugmaker GW Pharmaceuticals, recently secured approval for its CBD-based epilepsy drug, Epidiolex, but investing in that company won’t give you exposure to Canada’s or America’s recreational marijuana market. Also, the Food and Drug Administration approval of Epidiolex is initially for its use in patients with very rare forms of epilepsy, suggesting it may be a while before it becomes widely used. Currently, its approved, addressable market totals less than 40,000 people in the U.S.

Marijuana ETFs

Because individual marijuana stocks are imperfect options for investing in this industry, ETFs might be a better alternative. Like a mutual fund, an ETF pools together money from investors to make investments according to its prospectus — a legal document that explains the fund, its finances, management, expenses, strategy, and other important information. However, unlike mutual funds, but like individual stocks, ETFs can be bought or sold at any point during the trading day, giving investors more flexibility.

There are ETFs that invest in stocks, bonds, and commodities. Typically, ETFs invest in stocks passively by tracking the stocks included in an underlying index. These indexes can be created by third parties, such as the Standard and Poor‘s S&P 500 index, or by the ETF’s issuer.

Due to the growing interest in marijuana investing, investment companies have begun launching ETFs that invest solely in cannabis stocks. The two largest marijuana ETFs are the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF (TSX:HMMJ) and the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (NYSEMKT:MJ).

Horizon’s fund trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange, but investors can buy shares on the over-the-counter market, too. It tracks Arcview’s North American Marijuana Index, an index that’s primarily made up of U.S. and Canadian marijuana or hemp companies.

Instead of investing the same amount of money in each stock listed in the index, Horizon determines each stock’s weighting by its market cap every quarter. When the ETF rebalances its weightings every quarter, it caps the maximum weight for any one stock at 10%.However, these weights can become much bigger than that in between its quarterly rebalancing. For instance, in September 2018, the ETF had over 10% of its assets in both Aurora Cannabis, a Canadian marijuana stock, and Canopy Growth, and it held over 30% of its assets in its top three holdings: Canopy Growth, Aurora Cannabis, and GW Pharmaceuticals.

The ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF is the first marijuana-focused exchange-traded fund to list on the New York Stock Exchange’s Arca exchange. Its $341 million in assets track the Prime Alternative Harvest Index.

The ETFMG ETF is also a market cap-weighted fund, but with a twist: It can adjust the weights based on a review of the company. For instance, one of the ETF holdings is the $109 billion market cap Altria, but since Altria derives most of its money from tobacco, not marijuana, its weight in the ETF is only 1.76%. For comparison, Aurora Cannabis weight just shy of 10% despite its much smaller market cap.

The following table shows the largest holdings of these two ETFs as of September 28, 2018. Although the top 10 biggest marijuana stocks held in these ETFs is similar, the weights differ substantially. As a result, their performance could be very different depending on the returns they generate from their biggest holdings.

ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF

Company Percent of Holdings
Canopy Growth Corp. (NYSE:CGC) 9.85%
Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CRON) 9.48%
Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NASDAQOTH:ACBFF) 9.3%
Tilray, Inc. (NASDAQ:TLRY) 9.2%
GW Pharmaceuticals PLC (NASDAQ:GWPH) 6.78%
CannTrust Holdings (NASDAQOTH: CNTTF) 4.63%
Hydropothecary Corp. (NASDAQOTH: HYYDF) 4.56%
Corbus Pharmaceuticals Holdings (NASDAQ: CRBP) 3.46%
Green Organic Dutchman Holding (NASDAQOTH: TGODF) 3.36%
Emerald Health Therapeutics (NASDAQOTH: EMHTF) 3.29%

Data source: ETFMJ and Horizons ETFs.

Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF

Company Percent of Holdings
Canopy Growth Corp. 11.65%
Aurora Cannabis Inc. 11.62%
Tilray, Inc. 9.59%
Aphria Inc. (NASDAQOTH: APHQF) 9.24%
GW Pharmaceuticals PLC 8.94%
Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. (NYSE:SMG) 7.44%
Cronos Group Inc. 5.72%
Hexo Corp. 4.03%
Green Organic Dutchman Holding 3.78%
CannTrust Holdings 2.82%

Data source: ETFMJ and Horizons ETFs.

How to pick the right ETF

Marijuana stock investors with a deep understanding of the marijuana market and the individual marijuana companies participating in it may prefer owning a small number of marijuana stocks, rather than an ETF that owns many marijuana stocks. However, the complexity associated with an emerging and highly regulated market like this makes accumulating that level of knowledge an arguably full-time occupation. So if you’re not incredibly comfortable with the risks associated with investing in the wrong individual marijuana stock, then buying an ETF that owns a diversified collection of marijuana market participants may be smart.

Picking the right ETF to buy can be hard, but considering portfolio turnover and expenses can make it simpler. Investment portfolios that don’t buy and sell stocks frequently, or low-turnover funds, historically outperform high-turnover funds, and low-fee funds tend to generate better long-term returns than high-fee funds. Included among the fees charged by ETFs are administrative fees, regulatory compliance fees, distribution fees, management fees, marketing fees, shareholder services fees, and record-keeping fees. These fees are bundled together and charged as a percentage of net assets that are invested in the fund, or assets under management. This is usually referred to as the ETFs expense ratio. Typically, funds with more in assets under management have a lower expense ratio than those with less money under management because of the benefits associated with scale.

Unfortunately, neither of these ETFs has a long track record, so it’s difficult to determine which may wind up having less turnover in holdings over time. As for fees, the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF has a 0.94% expense ratio and the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF expense ratio is 0.75%. Because more of your money will stay in your pocket rather than the investment managers, the ETFMG ETF could be a better bet.

Should you buy these ETFs?

The Horizon Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF and the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF provide diversified exposure to the marijuana industry, but the different weightings in the respective portfolio could make their performance differ meaningfully from each other. For example, Horizon’s ETF has nearly 7.5% of its money in Scotts Miracle-Gro, while it doesn’t even crack the top 10 holdings list for ETFMG’s ETF. Similarly, the ETFMG fund invests in tobacco companies and the Horizon fund doesn’t. Those differences in weights and holdings could be enough to sway investors away from one of these ETFs toward the other.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that either of these ETFs is a wise investment. Any number of things could derail share prices in the underlying stocks owned by these funds. For instance, regulators could change the rules associated with securing licenses to manufacture and sell marijuana or lawmakers could change the taxes charged on marijuana production and retail sales, negatively impacting revenue and profitability. There’s also the risk that sales could be negatively impacted by unforeseen health consequences associated with rising marijuana use or that countries that are expected to embrace pro pot laws don’t change their minds. In short, these are risky investments that are best suited to only the most aggressive and risk-tolerant investors.

That having been said, I favor the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF because its assets aren’t as concentrated in its top three holdings, its expense ratio is lower, and it’s traded on the New York Stock Exchange. I haven’t invested any of my own money in it marijuana stocks yet, but that’s the marijuana ETF I’ll consider buying if I do.

Todd Campbell has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. His clients may have positions in the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Q&A: Governor candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham

  • NAME: Michelle Lujan Grisham
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Member of Congress
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Three term member of Congress, small business owner, New Mexico Secretary of Health, New Mexico Secretary of Aging
  • EDUCATION: BA and JD, University of New Mexico
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: newmexicansformichelle.com

1. What are the top two things you would do to improve the economy in New Mexico?

First, I’ll create a Pre-K through adult education system that provides everyone with a quality education and prepares our workforce for quality jobs in New Mexico.

Second, I’ll support investment in a modern and commercially oriented infrastructure including roads, bridges, railway, broadband internet, water, electric transmission, and clean power generation.

2. What are the top two things you would propose to address the state’s high crime rate?

First, I’ll address our opioid and drug issue and its impact on crime, providing high-quality treatment across New Mexico.

Second, I’ll ensure that our police, prosecutors, and entire justice system have the resources needed to fight crime, pay our officers more, and hire more police to keep our communities safe.

3. New Mexico now spends about $300 million a year for early childhood programs, such as home visiting, pre-kindergarten and child care assistance. Do you support or oppose a constitutional amendment that would withdraw more money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to increase funding for early childhood services?

I support responsibly funding our schools and creating universal early childhood education in New Mexico with a constitutional amendment. We know high-quality Pre-K education for three and four-year-old children makes a huge difference in cognitive and social development and long-term educational outcomes. This investment pays for itself many times over.

4. Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales?

I will sign a bill that legalizes recreational cannabis if it includes protections for kids, DWI, access for medical cannabis patients, and sensible regulations. We can use this to generate much-needed revenue by taxing sales.

5. Do you support or oppose raising New Mexico’s minimum wage, currently $7.50 per hour? If so, by how much?

I will support an increased minimum wage in my first term, raising it to $10 in 2019 and bringing the minimum to $12 by 2022 and indexing it to inflation. This will give more than 100,000 hardworking New Mexico families an immediate raise.

6. What steps would you propose taking to ensure the future solvency of New Mexico’s two public retirement systems? Would you support making state workers and teachers pay more into the pension funds?

I’m committed to working with the boards of New Mexico’s retirement systems to chart a path towards long-term solvency. I will not support cutting benefits as we work to fill damaging vacancies in our classrooms and state government.

7. Do you support or oppose opening the state’s primary elections to voters who aren’t affiliated with either major political party?

We need to do whatever we can to engage more voters in the electoral process. Opening primary elections to independent voters will create an opportunity for more people to participate and incentivize campaigns like mine to reach out to a broader electorate even before the primary election.

8. Do you support or oppose appealing a state judge’s recent decision that said New Mexico has fallen short of meeting its constitutional requirement to provide a sufficient education to all students? And what percentage of the state budget, in your opinion, should go toward K-12 public schools?

I will immediately end the Martinez administration’s appeal. We can’t play politics with our children’s education any longer, and I will work to adequately fund our classrooms and provide necessary supports for at-risk students. Public education is the state’s most important responsibility, and our budget should reflect that.

9. Do you support or oppose the current policy of including student test scores as part of teacher evaluations? If you support the policy, what percentage of the evaluation should the test scores account for?

Teachers and all state employees need to be held accountable, but based on fair and holistic evaluations and metrics that reflect their work. Testing-focused evaluations punish teachers working with the most vulnerable students, and discourage the quality teaching that our students deserve.

10. Do you support or oppose updating the current prohibition in the law on assisted suicide in order to allow aid-in-dying under certain medical circumstances?

I support updating the current prohibition. We should provide patients with humane end-of-life options, including medical aid-in-dying for terminally ill competent adults.

11. How should the state’s lottery scholarship program be kept solvent into the future?

The lottery scholarship is a crucial piece of the higher-ed funding puzzle for thousands of New Mexico families. I will support a study of lottery operations so that we generate the strongest returns for our students, and change the lottery formula so it does not incentivize schools to increase tuition costs.

12. Do you favor making New Mexico a sanctuary state?

Labels like Sanctuary Cities/States limit our independent ability to make decisions for the benefit of our communities. I believe we should focus law enforcement resources on keeping New Mexicans safe in their communities. Policies must allow police to earn the trust and collaboration of the people they serve.

13. Do you believe the initial police incident reports and videos of arrests and crime scenes should be public?

Simple incident reports and police videos should be public so people are aware of crime in their area. I support police body cameras but there may be exceptions to public release to provide for the safety and privacy of victims and because of fear of retaliation in some gang related crimes.

14. New Mexico has more than 100 exemptions and deductions in its gross receipts tax system. Would you favor eliminating some or all of them as part of an attempt to lower the base rate? If so, which ones? If not, why?

I believe we need to take a hard look at all our tax exemptions and deductions to create a fair system that maximizes revenues while lessening burdens on families. We need to prioritize incentives that are proven to create good jobs and target those that don’t produce good results.

15. What would you support to make New Mexico schools safer? Would that include changing New Mexico’s gun laws? If so, what specific changes to the gun laws would you support?

I’ll make New Mexico’s schools safer by first focusing on improving students social and emotional health through proven methods, and providing access to critical behavioral health services with more School-Based Health Centers. And we need tougher gun laws, including an assault weapons ban and effective background checks.

Personal background

1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

No.

2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

No.

3. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, explain.

No.

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Heinrich faces two challengers in Senate race

Copyright (C) 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico voters have an unusual mix of candidates to choose from in this year’s three-way race for the U.S. Senate.

Challenging incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich are an Albuquerque contractor making his first run for office and a former New Mexico governor who’s campaigned for president twice – and who joined the race just 2 1/2 months before Election Day.

The outcome will determine whether Heinrich, a former Albuquerque city councilor, returns to the U.S. Senate for a second, six-year term.

Heinrich is campaigning as an outdoorsman and engineer at heart who’s steadily working on New Mexico’s behalf, avoiding the daily partisan combat in Washington, D.C.

Republican Mick Rich, a construction contractor who has worked on schools and churches throughout the state, is asking voters to “send a hard hat to Washington” to focus on jobs and opportunity for the state.

And Libertarian Gary Johnson, who served as governor from 1995 to 2002, is pitching himself as the ultimate swing vote in a Senate with a one-vote Republican majority. He joined the race in mid-August after fellow Libertarian Aubrey Dunn, the state’s land commissioner, withdrew.

The campaign comes as New Mexico remains heavily dependent on the federal government. The state is home to two national laboratories, three Air Force bases and more than a dozen national monuments, parks and trails.

Nearly half of the state’s southern border is adjacent to Mexico, thrusting the state into the debate over whether to build the border wall sought by President Donald Trump – an issue that divides the Senate candidates.

Heinrich and Johnson oppose construction of the wall.

Rich said he supports Trump’s commitment to securing the border, including a wall “in some places” and a fence in others.

But Rich also insisted in a recent interview that he would be an independent voice in the U.S. Senate.

“I’m not running to be the president’s senator or Republican leadership’s senator – I’m running to be New Mexico’s senator,” Rich told the Journal.

Johnson, meanwhile, said he couldn’t be more of an opposite to Trump on immigration. If the United States ever builds a border wall, he said, it will eventually be torn down.

“I think Trump’s rhetoric is horrible,” Johnson said. “I think he’s sowing seeds of distrust that will last the rest of my lifetime.”

Heinrich said he favors a bipartisan approach to immigration, which he said shouldn’t be used as a “wedge issue.”

“I fundamentally believe that this is a president who is not in line with New Mexicans’ values,” he said.

Heinrich

A Journal Poll in mid-September gave Heinrich a comfortable lead in the three-way race – 21 percentage points ahead of Rich, his closest competitor. He also had a fundraising advantage at the end of June, the last time candidates filed with the Federal Election Commission.

“What I’ve tried to do is not be a voice in the day-to-day partisan rhetoric,” Heinrich said in an interview, “but a consistent, hardworking member who’s able to do really tangible things for my state, for the country.”

He is a member of two Senate committees that he says are incredibly important for New Mexico – Armed Services and Energy and Natural Resources. Heinrich said he’s helped secure military construction funding to position the state’s military installations for the future, in addition to working on federal legislation in 2015 that he said opened up overseas markets for New Mexico oil and gas.

Heinrich said he is also working to make Albuquerque a leader in the development of directed energy – lasers and microwaves, for example, that can be used to shoot down drones in the battlefield. New Mexico’s national laboratories, military installations and private companies based in Albuquerque make it an ideal location for directed-energy research, he said.

“I would like to be seen as somebody who is going to work every single day and no matter how vitriolic things have become in Washington, looks for ways to move the ball down the field for New Mexico, even though that means working with Republicans on most days,” Heinrich said.

Rich

Rich is campaigning as someone who would bring “hard-hat values” to Washington, D.C. The state is losing young people, he said, and the unemployment rate remains among the highest in the nation.

He pitches himself as a job creator, not a politician.

If elected, Rich said, he would utilize connections built through his business background and fight for funding and important missions for New Mexico’s two national laboratories.

And he hasn’t been shy about criticizing his opponents.

Rich has said he’s confident he will have the support of conservative voters, and he likened Johnson to former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

At a significant fundraising disadvantage in the race, Rich has criticized Heinrich for, among other things, relocating his family to suburban Washington, D.C., saying the move shows Heinrich’s “heart” is no longer in New Mexico.

He has also blasted Heinrich for voting against confirmation of U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and for prioritizing environmental issues.

“We have a senator that’s focused on wilderness and monuments,” Rich said. “We don’t have a wilderness and monuments problem – we have a jobs problem.”

Johnson

Johnson, meanwhile, is a familiar name to New Mexico voters. He beat Democratic Gov. Bruce King in 1994 to launch his political career and won re-election in 1998. He was a Republican at the time.

Johnson – a businessman who has worked in construction and the cannabis industry – later switched his affiliation to Libertarian and ran for president in 2012 and 2016. He lives in Taos and has competed in triathlons and the Ironman World Championship.

He would be the perfect fit for a swing vote in the U.S. Senate, he said, where Republicans now hold 51 of 100 seats.

“If anything comes down to a swing vote,” Johnson said, “I think I’m the guy you want. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I think people recognize I have told the truth – that there is an honesty and integrity” to his approach to politics.

Johnson names the federal budget deficit as a defining issue he’d tackle. He wants to be known as the “budget hawk” in Washington.

Too many senators, Johnson said, see the job as “all about bellying up to the trough, and the last thing we need is more spending in Washington.”

He favors a variety of legislation to reshape marijuana laws – including a change that would allow cannabis to be the subject of research, a scientific standard for what constitutes intoxication if someone uses marijuana and a process to pardon people convicted of marijuana crimes.


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Spoiler alert? Johnson Senate bid ups tension in New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. — Former presidential candidate Gary Johnson is setting his sights on a U.S. Senate seat from New Mexico as a Libertarian candidate, arguing that he can act as an influential swing vote and a voice of reason in bitterly divided Washington. The former governor wants to downsize federal spending to offset President Donald Trump’s tax cuts and push let-live policies on cannabis and education. Democrats warn that he would work to torpedo social spending.

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WHAT’S HAPPENING

Johnson made a late entry as a Libertarian into the Senate race against first-term Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich and Republican political newcomer Mick Rich.

Johnson says politicians in Washington have their “heads in the sand” over the dangers of ballooning federal debt that could lead to Venezuela-style inflation. He also believes that Trump has betrayed conservative free-market principals by waging trade wars while subsidizing farmers, though he applauds Trump’s efforts to rein in federal regulation.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Associated Press reporters are on the ground around the country, covering political issues, people and races from places they live. The Ground Game series highlights that reporting, looking at politics from the ground up. Each week, in stories and a new podcast , AP reporters examine the political trends that will drive the national conversation tomorrow.

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Johnson still has a political following in New Mexico from his two terms as governor starting more than 20 years ago, when was elected as a Republican. And he says he has a natural constituency in the growing portion of voters who register without allegiance to major parties.

Pollsters say that may not be enough, and that independents tend to sit out nonpresidential election cycles. The state Republican Party is accusing Johnson of ensuring a Democratic victory by dividing fiscal conservatives.

Still an avid outdoor athlete at age 65, Johnson says he’d happily set aside his 100-day ski seasons and bicycle endurance races to serve in the Senate.

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WHY IT MATTERS

Johnson’s quirky policies and unpredictable allure among voters is forcing Democrats to defend what had seemed like a secure seat. And Republicans are calling him a spoiler outright, saying he will draw votes from their candidate. With the Republicans holding a super slim majority, every seat is crucial to both sides.

To cement support among progressives, Heinrich has cast himself as a defender of federal Medicare and Social Security benefits and a proponent of the new outdoor-recreation and renewable-energy economies — a tenuous hedge in an oil-based state economy. His newfound support for legalizing marijuana defuses one of Johnson’s signature issues.

A Libertarian has never served in Congress and Johnson wants to prove that a third-party politician can make the Senate more productive.

Political opponents say the stakes are high for the nation if Johnson were to succeed in tipping the Senate’s partisan balance.

They also say a pledge by Johnson to trim the federal budget doesn’t necessarily help a deeply impoverished state that heavily depends on federal military and Medicaid spending.

Johnson says current federal retirement and health care benefits are unsustainable, and that he can make a compelling case to maintain military assets and weapons research in New Mexico.

Johnson wants a say in what comes next if the federal government decriminalizes marijuana, envisioning a system of pardons for prior convictions and changes to workplace drug testing.

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WHAT TO WATCH

Johnson could steal the show in October televised debates, and unscripted campaign moments are a given.

Johnson said he takes pride in his honesty and open thought process — even if after infamous campaign gaffes as he ran for president. And he was known for offbeat behavior as governor, twirling a plastic pig in the air once to signal he would never sign a budget bill.

Johnson says he would be a fair and impartial judge in the event of an impeachment trial against Trump, and sees no impeachable offense so far.

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Good Luck at the Races

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Rob M.

Last week both New Mexico gubernatorial candidates faced off in a televised debate on KRQE. When questioned about recreational cannabis Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham took a huge swig from her water bottle and Rep. Steve Pearce just smirked.

The first question: “Have either of you smoked pot?” Both answered they hadn’t (a little irritably, I might point out).

With that out of the way, Anchor Dean Staley cut to the quick and asked about the legalization of cannabis. Commenting first on medicinal cannabis, Pearce growled, “I was suspicious of that for many years.” He said some close friends had convinced him, though, and he’d “come to terms” with it. With clear discomfort, he said, “Medical marijuana. Fine. We will do it. There maybe should be more oversight.”

He then tried to explain his bizarre reasoning behind denying recreational legalization. I’ve mentioned it a few times, but it’s worth remembering that back in April, Pearce told a crowd of voters that legal cannabis would be “one more obstacle in front of people who are struggling to get out of poverty.” It was one of the weirdest lines of thought I’ve encountered.

I was interested to hear his rationalization this time around. The new answer: “When I say that we’ve got to cure poverty–when we’ve got to cure mental behavior health [sic] and drug addiction–opioid addiction–all of those kind of merge together.” Okay, I’m following you so far, Pearce. “I do not see how putting one more obstacle in front of people helps them to get out of poverty and get back on their feet. I really don’t.”

So there you have it. All cleared up.

Lujan Grisham reiterated her support of legalization. She pointed out that it was an economic boost in all the states where it’s been implemented and “the benefit New Mexico has with the nine states that have legalized recreational marijuana is that we can learn from their successes and their mistakes.” Quite rational.

She pointed out that she helped get medical cannabis approved and chided Pearce for voting against veteran access to medical cannabis. She also criticized Governor Martinez for “doing everything she can to minimize access and make it difficult to obtain both a license to produce and get access as a patient.”

She struck me as quite passionate about the question, which I like. I noticed she was hardly able to contain her shocked sighs while listening to Pearce’s bizarre rhetoric. Her opponent, meanwhile, maintained a super creepy beatific smile and stared directly into the camera while Lujan Grisham promised to sign any bill that “protects the medical cannabis program–makes sure that patients don’t lose any of their access to the products that they need, deals with workplace intoxication and public safety, deals with underage consumption and prevention and regulates productively edibles–which can get in the hands of underage users–then I’m inclined to sign that bill.”

Pearce interjected before the next question was asked to say that Colorado is facing problems with “lessening performance” (whatever that means), more drugged driving (a misleading statistic, since the only current testing method will give a positive result 30 to 120 days after it was last ingested), and “younger kids taking it.”

He went on to describe a nameless single mother who supposedly moved back to New Mexico from “one of the states” and said to him, “How dare you put an obstacle in front of me trying to raise my family.” He sure talks to a lot of people with “obstacles in front” of them.

Lujan Grisham cut in once more to say that she has identified those very issues and can plan to deal with them better now that we know of the concerns. “To minimize that as an economic driver doesn’t make any sense.” Classy.

Have a Coke and Smile

Last week I was bombarded with links about Coca-Cola hopping on the CBD bandwagon.

Last month Molson Coors Brewing Co. Canada (one of the largest beer producers in the world) partnered with The Hydropothecary Corporation to produce non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused drinks. The new company they created will operate independently from its parents.

And US-based alcohol company Constellation Brands Inc. also made headlines last month for investing in Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth Corp. The company dropped $5 billion into Canopy, a number which made the market sit up and pay attention.

So while I normally just chuckle and roll past a headline like “Coca-Cola says it’s looking at potential cannabis drinks business,” this time I decided to pause and consider the ramifications. The brand new cannabis marketplace suffered some trouble recently when the US Customs and Border Protection agency announced it would permanently ban all Canadians working for or investing in cannabis companies if they try to cross the border. The confidence shown by those two alcohol companies in using the cannabis industry as an avenue to new revenue streams implies a different strategy might be employed by the entire alcohol industry–which has reportedly seen some troubling revenue losses in states where recreational cannabis is legal. That vote of confidence was like a shot in the arm for cannabis stocks. What effect would Coca-Cola have on the market?

According to Bloomberg, the soda pop maker is currently in talks with Canadian-based Aurora Cannabis Inc. Although they refuse to state how serious the discussions are, Coca-Cola representatives did tell reporters that they are “closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world.”

It’s far from a definitive announcement, but it was enough to make Aurora’s stocks jump. Me, too.

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