A Little Personal Growth

Franci Bailey

Eric Williams Photography

You’ll need more than a green thumb and a personal production license to start growing your own medical cannabis plants. Franci Bailey, gardener at CG, gave us some pointers on starting a successful home grow operation.

Weekly Alibi: So where does someone even start with home growing after they get their personal production license? Just go get seeds? Or one of those little plants you see around?

Bailey: Lots of LNPPs [licensed nonprofit producer] will sell clones. They hesitate to do that anymore because we’re so limited in the number of plants we can grow, but they’re looking at changing the rules–like the clone won’t actually count as a plant until you get it into its growing media.

So the easiest way to get started is to get a clone from a known female or to buy a feminized seed. Seeds actually grow into a healthier plant in my opinion. It seems to me that after a few lifetimes the plant will start to lose its genetic makeup. I don’t know if that’s factual–but as I continually clone the same strain without adding a new seed, it just seems that the plant’s ability to produce a good amount of bud at the end of its life deteriorates. It’s anecdotal, but I’ve been growing since 2008–so 10 years this year.

But usually people that want to start growing marijuana will have a resource available to them. There’s lots of great websites where they can buy a seed from, or maybe someone that they know is already growing. And actually if someone came here and asked for a plant, we could actually grow a plant and sell it to them as a way to get started.

They have to have a personal production license, of course, and you’re limited to the number of plants that New Mexico allows: 4 mature flowering plants and 12 immature plants. But once you have a known female, if you’re careful with that plant and give it the proper nutrients and light, you could almost grow forever from that same mother.

What are some of the common mistakes people make starting out?

Lots of people might buy a media that doesn’t have any nutrients itself, so the plant is dependent on the grower to provide everything it needs to grow, and they’ll only give it water. There’s lots of fertilizers out there that are perfectly fine for marijuana–MiracleGro or any kind of basic fertilizer you can get at Home Depot–but then of course there are stores that cater to growing marijuana and sell specialty nutrients, and those make the plant look a little better in my opinion because it’s giving that specific plant what it needs. Just like you can buy tomato fertilizer or rose fertilizer, you can buy marijuana fertilizer, and it’s always better to go that way.

If you just spent an hour a week diddling around with your four plants, they should produce nicely for you.

You need to feed them regularly. So if you get them on a watering schedule, don’t miss. If you’re watering them Monday, Wednesday and Friday, don’t ever miss a Monday, Wednesday or Friday. The plant becomes used to being fed regularly, and even if in your opinion the plant has had enough to eat, it’s expecting to get fed. So it will get hungry.

In its vegetative state, the marijuana plant needs 18 hours of light per day. That tricks the plant into believing that it’s early in the summer, and all it’s doing is growing its green vegetative growth. Once you switch its light schedule down to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness per day, it will automatically think, “It’s time for me to start blooming.” So indoors you’re looking at 8 to 10 weeks for the plant to reach its maturity.

But in its vegetative state, it will grow to infinite size if it’s outside. I’ve seen marijuana plants with stalks five inches in diameter, like a tree, out in the Emerald Triangle in California. And those plants are just amazing to see. The fragrance when you walk through there is just … I’ve been there one time and–I hate it when people use this word all the time–but it was awesome. It really made me feel awe. That grower said those plants would net him 10 pounds a piece. And he had a field of them.

Are you allowed to grow outside here in New Mexico?

You can grow it outside here. Personal production license dictates that you need to make sure that your neighbors are unaware of what you’re doing. When you apply you have to designate your area where you’re going to be growing and say what you’re going to do to allay the neighbor’s nosiness.

Weird. Any cool personal tips that could help new growers?

When I grow I get most of the foliage off the bottom and spread the tops as far as my space will allow, because the bud at the top of the plant is always better than the stuff below–what we call “popcorn.”

It’s a really simple technique. I use a 15-gallon pot, and when the plant starts to get tall, I’ll put 4 stakes around it and use a piece of chicken wire or horse fencing, but its powder-coated, so it’s tidy. I pull it all the way over the top of the plant and I zip tie it to the four stakes.

I’ll do that while they go into bloom. The first couple of weeks in bloom, they’ll still grow–they’ll add about a third to their size. As they’re doing that, I pull the branches and try to get one little bud site into each of the squares of the wire. We call that “scrogging.” SCROG stands for “screen of green” on some acronymic level.

Marijuana will generally grow like a Christmas tree, and it will get that one beautiful cola at the top if you let it be. What you want to do is when the plant reaches about 12 inches, we use this method called “fimming.” You actually pull apart the small leaves at a bud site and you pinch the inner leaves off. “Fimming” stands for “fuck I missed,” because someone was pinching back their plants and made a mistake, but the plant produced more than they thought it would.

As you fim those sites, you want the plant to turn into little bushes, as opposed to Christmas tree-shaped, so you’ll get all these nice sites at the top that get the most light. The more lumens you provide for the flower, the more nuggets you get.

Is it hard to grow at home?

No. If you provide the plant with the right environment and fed it regularly, it should be fine. If you just spent an hour a week diddling around with your four plants, they should produce nicely for you.

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Law of the Land

Carlos N. Martinez

Eric Williams Photography

State cannabis-related business laws aren’t as simple as you might have thought. Carlos N. Martinez, Esq. of Legal Solutions of New Mexico, LLC, discusses how cannabis laws affect family and business law litigation.

Weekly Alibi: Your firm places an emphasis on cannabis law. Why the interest?

Martinez: Throughout our firm’s history, cannabis law has made multiple appearances in the areas that we practice in. The topic comes up a lot with child custody situations in multiple jurisdictions throughout the state as well as employment law issues. Specifically, issues regarding the workplace–whether it be within dispensaries, the grow houses, manufacturing warehouses, testing labs or wherever they’re conducting operations. Cannabis law issues almost always go hand-in-hand with businesses. For example: dealing with local ordinances, state laws, federal laws, zoning, taxes–it touches a lot of different areas of the law that most people may or may not even realize exist.

So we’ve tried to brand ourselves as a law firm that recognizes the need for attorneys who understand the ever-evolving cannabis industry and are open and accepting of clients in that industry. We help them out in regards to what they can and cannot do here in the state of New Mexico–how we can support them and help them stay legal, help them maintain their licenses and grow their businesses.

Unfortunately we all saw a producer lose their license recently, and we would like to help prevent that for our clients. The state’s demand is already very high and growing, and the supply has, to this point, not been able to keep up with demand.

We work with clients that are already in the industry, or clients who are looking to get into the industry, clients who are trying to merge with other businesses or companies looking to navigate the state’s rules and regulations.

The CBD laws are so squirrelly right now–how do you untangle something like that?

Well to be honest, it’s hard to untangle it. Businesses have to operate within … whatever’s out there. And it’s not necessarily just the laws and regulations businesses have to worry about. They have to also be wary of directives coming from the state–memos from federal agents and so on. So I don’t really have a good answer for you. “Navigate” is what we’re trying to do in that tangled mess of laws, and to keep our clients out of trouble.

Our firm is not necessarily an expert on CBD as much as we are on cannabis rules. However, we know other attorneys that are experts on CBD, both locally and nationally; namely Patricia Monaghan.

Does that only apply to dispensaries?

To our knowledge, CBD products cannot be carried or sold by licensed producers and dispensaries at this time.

Luckily, our firm has been able to create New Mexico’s first Cannabis Law Section though the state bar of New Mexico, and team up with a group of attorneys who have much more CBD and hemp expertise. The Cannabis Law Section is a group of at least 51 attorneys licensed here in the state of New Mexico that recognize that cannabis law is an emerging legal field, and we need to have someone to represent that particular industry. It’s a collective of legal minds dealing with cannabis law issues.

Do you come across many personal problems with cannabis laws in your practice?

We do a lot of work with domestic violence and child custody cases. And it’s unique in the fact that–I don’t know if it’s “unique” or “unfortunate” or both–but you will generally get different responses on cases from different jurisdictions as to whether or not it’s okay to be a licensed cannabis user and still maintain child custody. Some courts are wholly against it, while others don’t have a problem as long as you have a license and are following the laws and regulations and aren’t being a danger to your kids.

So if you have a medical card, it could come up in a custody hearing?

Oh it will definitely come out. Now how it gets dealt with by the courts unfortunately varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction from our experience. We practice throughout the state so we get a good look at courts in different jurisdictions.

In contested custody situations, there’s always an argument about whether or not “this person uses cannabis or this person grows their own cannabis,” when in all reality, this person–this parent–has a valid license, has a personal production license and is well within their state laws and regulations. Courts in some jurisdictions may say “They’re within the law and that won’t come into play.” Or a court could say, “This is a huge issue we’re going to have to look at closely.”

And these are all state courts?

District courts. And it’s not just judges. There’s also hearing officers and domestic violence commissioners and family law hearing officers. It was one of the issues that my partner and I recognized as a problem.

What’s something that could fix that?

I honestly think it’s just education at this point. Get everybody educated on the topic of the state’s cannabis program. I don’t know if it’s going to be going through changes here in the next election or not–I’m assuming it will–but whatever it ends up being, the courts need to be educated about it, as well as their staff, hearing officers and domestic violence commissioners.

We weren’t necessarily dedicated to cannabis clients and cannabis industry in the beginning, but we started seeing it going to court and dealing with clients, so we decided to go ahead and enter this market and see if we can help out more than harm the system.

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Albuquerque’s CBD market blooms

Copyright (C) 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The balm is green and possesses a vaguely herbal odor. When massaged on the hand, there’s a slight cooling effect – or perhaps it’s just this reporter’s imagination.

“When people come into the store and complain about plantar fasciitis, I tell them to rub this on their feet,” said Cassie Eaton, manager of Nature’s Secret CBD and Oils.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, a cannabis-derived substance that can be found in both hemp and marijuana plants. Unlike the compound THC, which is also found in both plants (though in very small quantities in hemp), CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t create a “high” or affect brain function. Still, many who sell CBD-laced products claim it can be used to help alleviate anxiety as well as pain, inflammation and a host of other conditions.

At Nature’s Secret, products run from $5 (a CBD lollipop) to $300 (a solution infused with thousands of milligrams of CBD). Because Nature’s Secret isn’t a licensed cannabis dispensary and sells items with either no or only trace amounts of THC, customers can make purchases without a medical marijuana card. The store opened in January, and Eaton says customer demand has boomed in recent months: what was once being purchased by the business in a pack of 20 now must be ordered in a pack of 40 to stay in stock, and there’s a waitlist for several items.

The Journal identified 12 stores in Albuquerque that sell CBD products to the public at large that are not licensed dispensaries. Many products can also be purchased online from a variety of retailers. While estimates on the size of New Mexico’s CBD market are hard to come by, Vincent Galbiati, executive director of the newly-formed New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, says the CBD market within the state and elsewhere is “positioned for phenomenal growth.” That’s in line with a report from market research firm Brightfield Group, which projects that the hemp-derived CBD industry in the U.S. will grow to $1 billion by 2020.

And it’s not just cannabis advocates who are intrigued by the substance’s potential: Coca-Cola recently confirmed it is “closely watching” the expanding market for CBD-infused beverages.

“It’s only for its public perception that (CBD) hasn’t become more mainstream, and we’re starting to see that turn happen,” said Galbiati.

But is the promise of CBD — medically, legally and economically — borne out by the facts?

‘Not a panacea’

A World Health Organization report published this year described cannabidiol as a substance that is “generally well-tolerated with a good safety profile.” The report states that clinical trials have shown CBD is an effective treatment for some forms of epilepsy, and there’s a variety of early-stage research exploring the substance’s anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, neuroprotective and other properties. However, “this research is considerably less advanced than for the treatment of epilepsy,” according to the report.

“There are numerous CBD products . . . that are being manufactured and distributed without regulatory oversight and often with unverified contents,” the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence wrote in the report. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued two major series of warning letters to manufacturers for fraudulent medical claims . . . and fraudulent production claims.”

It’s that lack of oversight that concerns Rachael Speegle, a registered nurse and the chief operating officer at the Verdes Foundation, one of the state’s 35 licensed non-profit medical marijuana producers. Vendors who sell CBD products over-the-counter to the public don’t fall under the New Mexico Department of Health’s jurisdiction unless they are licensed through the medical marijuana program, so they aren’t subject to the same product testing and dosing requirements mandated by the state.

“CBD at a tanning salon isn’t being sold under the same requirements as the cannabis industry here, and that concerns me as a nurse because I don’t know what people are taking,” said Speegle.

And while CBD is more accessible to the public than medical marijuana, it is not a replacement for it, according to Speegle. She said she’s seen individuals respond well to CBD when they are seeking help with inflammation, damage to the peripheral nerves and certain autoimmune issues, among other conditions. But patients seeking relief from severe chronic pain or other acute conditions that would qualify them for the state’s medical marijuana program are often better candidates for products that also contain THC, according to Speegle.

Speegle has other concerns as well: topical applications have a limited effect because skin only has so many relevant receptors, and individuals taking massive quantities of CBD will eventually produce fewer natural cannabinoids, she said. Finally, it’s possible that person could test positive on a drug test for THC if the product contains trace amounts of the substance. She said she encourages her patients to consult with their medical providers, and to research their CBD products and vendors carefully, particularly if they are, like many New Mexicans, struggling to make ends meet.

“It’s not a panacea . . . We have to make sure we don’t exploit the power of suggestion and the placebo effect,” she said. “If someone is spending $50 on a product today, what are they not spending that on $50 on tomorrow?”

A ‘game changer’

In June, the federal government issued a decision Galbiati described as “the biggest game changer in the industry”: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, an oral CBD solution used to treat two rare and severe forms of epilepsy. It is the first prescription drug made from marijuana ever approved by the agency, though the FDA has previously given approval to drugs that contain synthetic versions of THC.

Marijuana advocates believe the decision makes an intergovernmental showdown over the legality of cannabis products increasingly likely, a showdown they believe could be decided in their favor. Though nine states have legalized recreational use of marijuana and another 31 states have medical marijuana programs, CBD and other cannabis products – with the exception of Epidiolex – remain illegal under federal law.

“When this gets resolved, it’s going to mean a lot of good things for job creation, economic development and patient care in New Mexico and the rest of the country,” said Galbiati.

The legal issues are complicated within New Mexico as well. A few weeks before the approval of Epidiolex, the state’s Department of Health sent a letter to New Mexico’s licensed producers and dispensaries warning against selling CBD products made from plants grown outside of the state. The department argued those sales were a violation of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, the 2013 law that created the state’s medical marijuana program. Under that legislation, any licensed producer who “obtains or transports cannabis outside New Mexico” is in violation of federal law and could be prosecuted by the state.

In a letter to the Health Department, the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce contended that interpreting the law in that manner would lead to a severe shortage of CBD, as the limited number of plants they are permitted by the state “makes it impossible . . . to be self-reliant in producing sufficient quantities of CBD.” Others complained that the warning unfairly targeted licensed entities, because it was not sent to retailers outside the department’s jurisdiction.

A Health Department spokesman told the Journal that the agency’s position on the issue remains unchanged.

Back at Nature’s Secret, Eaton described the New Mexico cannabis community as “a family, not a competition.” With a standard business license, the store continues to serve a diverse clientele, which she said includes military personnel, the parent of a young child with a seizure disorder, and people looking to calm their pets during a long car ride. Eaton said the store is rigorous about the quality of their inventory, is careful to not describe possible effects in terms of “cures”, and refers customers to licensed dispensaries as appropriate.

“We’re here to educate people, to help them learn more about their health,” she said. “Retail is not the most important thing we do.”

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Rio Rancho man gets 44 years in cannabis facility robbery

A judge on Monday sentenced A 33-year-old Rio Rancho man to 44 years in prison for his role in the armed robbery of a Santa Fe medical cannabis growing facility in 2013. That comes on top of the 24 years to which he was sentenced in August for robbing three Santa Fe motels at gunpoint in 2015.

Convicted felons are usually contrite when they address the judge at their sentencing hearing, apologizing and asking for mercy.

Not Reyes B. Barela.

After listening to one of the owners of the New Mexico Top Organics cannabis facility testify Monday about the emotional and financial toll the robberies had on his life, Barela continued to deny he committed the crimes he was convicted of, and criticized the judge’s handling of the case.

“I do feel bad for what they’ve had to go through,” Barela said. “I can’t begin to understand how it affected or altered their lives. If I could offer an apology I would, but I can not take responsibility for something I didn’t do.”

From there Barela attacked District Judge T. Glenn Ellington’s handling of the case, saying the judge had allowed jurors to hear testimony that should have been kept out — including a confession Barela’s attorneys argued had been coerced — and had turned a blind eye to inconsistent statements by a sheriff’s detective, asserting that the judge was biased because the deputy works in the courthouse.

“How is this justice?” Barela demanded. “How is this fair? My life was taken away the day you gave me 24 years. Thank god for an appeal. … There is a guy downstairs that killed somebody and just got 10 years. I can’t even be placed the scene of the crime and I’ve gotten my life taken away from me? I feel sorry for the day your judgment comes because I believe in God and like it says in the Book of Matthew ‘you too will be judged’ and the way you’ve chosen to judge others is the way you too will be judged, 10 times over. So I’ll pray for you, sir.”

Barela was charged with 12 felony counts related to the 2013 armed robbery in which authorities said he and two or three other men entered the medical cannabis facility through a back door, tied up the two men who owned the business and held them at gunpoint while stealing $30,000 worth of marijuana and then fleeing in an SUV belonging to one of the business owners.

Prosecutors held three trials before getting a guilty verdict in the case, which was complicated by the fact that the victims couldn’t positively identify each person involved in the holdup — the victims said the thieves had their faces covered — and there was no physical evidence tying Barela to the scene.

Leopoldo Maez, one of the other men implicated in the heist, had been offered a plea deal that called for him to serve about four years in prison if he agreed to testify against Barela, according to statements by prosecutors and the judge in court Monday.

But Maez ultimately backed out of the deal, refused to testify and was sentenced to 97 years with 53 years suspended for a total of 44 years for his role in the armed robbery and other crimes.

Assistant District Attorney Kent Wahlquist said he couldn’t comment Monday on what cases may or may not have been brought against the other co-defendants.

Barela’s first trial ended in a mistrial after a state witness accidentally volunteered information about Barela’s prior bad acts, which had already been ruled inadmissible by the judge.

The second trial ended with a hung jury.

But, before pronouncing the sentence, Ellington reminded Barela on Monday that the third jury convicted Barela on all 12 counts against him, including two counts of first-degree kidnapping, each punishable by 18 years in prison.

Barela’s sentence was enhanced by the fact that he used a gun and had prior felony convictions.

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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:













New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Dakota




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.


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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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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