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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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?


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


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.


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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.


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 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, 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.



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.


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.


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.



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.



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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New Mexico’s Elevated Support For Marijuana Legalization Could Color State a Deeper Shade of Blue

While New Mexico’s gubernatorial candidates debated the pros and cons of legalization last week, a poll published Sept. 21, 2018, shows how liberal Democrats may cash in on a green wave of support in November.

The poll conducted by Research and Polling Inc. found that a majority of New Mexico voters support legislation to legalize recreational marijuana by a 2-to-1 ratio, according to the Albuquerque Journal. The survey shows that 60 percent of voters would support legislation to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana sales to adults 21 and older, while 32 percent said they were opposed. The remainder of those surveyed had “mixed feelings” or didn’t know.

The poll also found that 74 percent of those who support legalization were Democrats. A majority of Republicans, 53 percent, opposed legalization, while support was roughly 40 percent.

While this was intriguing news for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has voiced her tentative support for legalizing adult-use marijuana, the poll results appear to be slightly more problematic for the Republican candidate, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce. For Pearce, who represents New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District in Washington, D.C., and who opposes legalization, he maintains it would create yet another obstacle for those citizens working to overcome poverty.

“I do not see how putting one more obstacle in front of people helps them get out of poverty and get back on their feet, so I’ve never been supportive of legalizing recreational marijuana,” Pearce said during aSept. 19, 2018, debate hosted by Albuquerque CBS and Fox affiliate KRQE-TV.

Although several proposals to legalize and tax recreational marijuana have repeatedly failed to make it through the New Mexico Legislature, Lujan Grisham said she would be “inclined to sign” responsible legislation that effectively addresses her four points of concern: the protection of New Mexico’s current medical marijuana program, workplace safety, underage consumption, and properly regulated edibles. Lujan Grisham supported her position by emphasizing the potential to bring “hundreds of millions of dollars to New Mexico’s economy.”

New Mexico is considered a “swing state” headed into the 2018 midterm election — FiveThirtyEight reported that Grisham has a seven point lead over Pearce as of Sept. 13, 2018.

The state’s House of Representatives comprises 38 Democrats and 32 Republicans, while the political composition in the Senate is 26 Democrats to 16 Republicans. Although the Democrats hold a majority in both legislative chambers, some conservative Democrats have voted with Republicans to stop legalization proposals in the past.

In December 2017, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino introduced Senate Joint Resolution 4 (SJR 4), an amendment that would have legalized the possession and use of marijuana by individuals 21 and older. Democratic state Sens. Linda Lopez, Ortiz y Pino, Daniel Ivey-Soto and Jeff Steinborn all voted in favor of the resolution, while Democratic state Sen. Mary Kay Papen voted against SJR 4 with Republican state Sens. Mark Moores and Cliff Pirtle.

But with no recreational marijuana initiative on the 2018 ballot, Lujan Grisham’s support for passing responsible legislation to legalize adult use may be one of the few issues motivating the electorate — aside from resisting President Donald Trump — to swing the purple state to a nice shade of bluish-green.

Pearce was give a ‘D’ grade by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) for his past marijuana votes in the U.S. House. In addition to voting against the Veterans Equal Access Amendment in 2015 and 2016, Pearce also voted against legislation that would have prohibited the Department of Justice from interfering with states that have allowed marijuana use.

Although during the debate neither candidate admitted to ever smoking marijuana, Lujan Grisham did vote for the 2015-2016 Veterans Equal Access Act (HR 667), the 2015 McClintock-Polis Amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriation bill, and the 2015 Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment to the fiscal year 2016 spending bill. As for medical marijuana, Lujan Grisham served as Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson’s health secretary and was instrumental in establishing the state’s program.

With a little more than 40 days to go before the 2018 midterm elections, it is a possibility that the situation may turn grim for New Mexico officials who voted no on legalization — regardless of party affiliation. As the state seeks to increase revenue for higher education, improve civil liberties, and generate new economic growth, the legalization of recreational marijuana could provide a boon in tax revenue, the decriminalization and potential expungement of cannabis offenses, and job creation through a newly created recreational cannabis industry to address some of the voters’ biggest concerns this November.

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Pot Topics: Coca-Cola eyes cannabis market; Weed museum opens in Vegas

Pot Topics is a weekly collection of cannabis-related news curated by the Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s this week’s top stories:

  • Coca-Cola considering CBD-infused beverages
  • Pot museum opens in downtown Las Vegas
  • Sober Dax Shepard defends wife Kristen Bell’s pot use
  • New Mexico Senate candidate Gary Johnson discloses pot sector holdings

Coca-Cola in talks to create CBD-infused drinks

Beverage giant Coco-Cola is thinking about getting into the cannabis business. | AP File photo

Soda giant Coca-Cola is watching the market for drinks laced with cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-intoxicating cannabis derivative that’s being used to treat everything from sleep problems to childhood epilepsy.

Coke has stressed that CBD doesn’t create the stony effects associated with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, another chemical found in the cannabis plant.

“Along with many others in the beverage industry, we are closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world,” Coca-Cola said Monday in a statement.

“The space is evolving quickly. No decisions have been made at this time,” the company added.

Coca-Cola’s statement followed a Bloomberg report Monday that claimed the Atlanta-based company was in “serious talks” to create CBD-infused beverages with Canadian pot company Aurora Cannabis. Neither company has denied the report, which cited “multiple sources familiar with the matter.”

Earlier this year, Coca-Cola tested an alcoholic beverage in Japan. A cannabis-derived drink would give the company yet another option as consumers continue to move away from sugary sodas.

A growing number of alcohol companies and distributors are also getting into the pot game, with the makers of Coors and Blue Moon beers already launching drinks infused with cannabis.

According to Bloomberg, Coca-Cola’s interest in a “functional wellness beverage” with CBD could result in a drink designed to ease inflammation, cramping and other pains.

To learn more about cannabidiol, check out the Sun-Times guide to CBD.

Interactive marijuana museum opens in Las Vegas

Las Vegas' newest attraction -- and Instagram backdrop -- is a museum celebrating all things cannabis.

Gabe Williams works on a exhibit at the Cannabition cannabis museum in Las Vegas. | AP Photo/John Locher

A new, first-of-its-kind cannabis museum opened Thursday in downtown Las Vegas, offering visitors an immersive, 420-friendly experience.

The Cannabition Cannabis Museum features a variety of made-for-social-media exhibits, including a slide that empties into a pool of foam pot “nuggets,” a glow-in-the-dark tree and a 24-foot bong — dubbed “Bongzilla” — that’s being touted as the world’s largest.

The attractions are all sponsored by companies working in and around the marijuana industry, including leading online pot resource Leafly, vaporizer company PAX Labs and Raw rolling papers, among others.

Although Nevada fully legalized pot over a year ago, a statewide ban on public consumption will prevent visitors from sparking up at the museum. Nevertheless, founder J.J. Walker hopes the space will help further destigmatize marijuana use.

“Our goal when people come out of this is that they don’t fear the cannabis industry if they are not believers in the industry,” Walker said. “Cannabition is not about just serving people that like marijuana, it’s about serving the masses that want to learn about cannabis and or just have fun and go do a cool art experience.”

Cannabition guests can wander through 12 installations with rooms like “seed,” where they can lie down in a bed shaped like a marijuana seed, and “grow,” which features artificial plants of various sizes placed under bright lights to represent a grow facility.

There is also a space with huge faux buds representing different pot strains and another room with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s legendary “Red Shark” Chevrolet Caprice.

The museum is not exactly the Smithsonian of marijuana, but it has some educational components. Guests get an introduction from museum guides and some graphics on walls explain how concentrates are made and the differences between indica and sativa cannabis strains.

To buy tickets, click here.

Sober Dax Shepard defends wife Kristen Bell’s pot use

Dax Shepard participates in the 17th Annual Chicago Polar Plunge at North Avenue Beach on Sunday, March 5, 2017. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Actor Dax Shepard defended his wife Kristen Bell’s weed use after she admitted to puffing a vaporizer in front of him earlier this week.

During her appearance Monday on comedian Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, “The Good Place” star said she sometimes tokes in front of Shepard, who has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction in the past.

“I like my vape pen quite a bit and I smoke around my husband,” Bell told Maron. “It doesn’t seem to bother him.”

“Weed rules,” she added.

On Wednesday, CBS’ “The Talk” referenced the couple’s situation in a tweet: “Kristen Bell vapes weed around Dax Shepard, even though he’s sober. If you were sober, would you expect your spouse to be?”

Shepard — who recently wrote, directed and starred in the big screen reboot of the ’80s cop show “CHiPS” — quickly shot back with his own tweet.

“That would be like a diabetic expecting their partner to never eat dessert,” he said. “Get real!”

Earlier this month, Bell penned a heartfelt Instagram post commemorating Shepard’s 14 years sober.

“I know how much you loved using. I know how much it got in your way. And I know, because I saw, how hard you worked to live without it,” she wrote.

Despite his sobriety, Bell told Maron that Shepard has encouraged her to experiment with psychedelic drugs.

“He just feels you shouldn’t leave earth without trying ecstasy or mushrooms,” she said of her husband.

Libertarian Senate candidate Gary Johnson discloses pot investments

U.S. Senate candidate Gary Johnson of New Mexico has disclosed personal financial interests in the cannabis sector that include stock holdings, a profit sharing agreement and recent capital gains on investment sales, according to filings reviewed by The Associated Press.

Former Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson disclosed his financial interests in the cannabis sector this week. | AP file photo

Gary Johnson, a Libertarian running a U.S. Senate campaign in New Mexico, disclosed his investments in the cannabis sector, which include stock holdings, a profit sharing agreement and recent capital gains on investment sales.

This week, Johnson’s filings disclosed that he owns stock totaling more than $250,000 in Nevada-based cannabis company Kush. In addition, he has a profit sharing agreement as the advisor to the pot-driven investment fund CB1 Capital.

Johnson, a two-time Libertarian presidential candidate candidate, also reported capital gains of at least $100,000 from Cannabis Sativa stock. He previously served as the Nevada-based company’s CEO.

Johnson, who is running against incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican Mick Rich, has been a longtime pot advocate.

Associated Press and USA Today contributed to this report.

Upcoming cannabis events in the Chicago area

  • Sept. 22: Modern Cannabis hosts a “Get a Card” event at Emporium Wicker Park, 1366 N. Milwaukee Ave.
  • Sept. 22: Nature’s Balance Acupuncture & Wellness Center hosts a CBD hemp oil tasting at 820 E. Terra Cotta Ave. in Crystal Lake.
  • Sept. 23: The Midwest Compassion Center hosts its monthly patient social and offers application assistance at 721 N. Independence Blvd. in Romeoville.
  • Sept. 24: Arlington Heights Memorial Library offers medical cannabis application assistance at 500 N. Dunton Ave. in Arlington Heights.
  • Sept. 27: Ellementa Chicago hosts a do-it-yourself herbal tincture class. The Living Room, 2423 W. North Ave.
  • Sept. 28: Ancien Cycle Cafe hosts a discussion about medical cannabis at 1558 E. 53rd St.

Sun-Times Cannabis Info Guides:

Our coverage also includes:

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Data Shows the Global Medical Cannabis Market is Set to Reach USD 28 Billion by 2024

NEW YORK, September 19, 2018 /PRNewswire/ —

According to a report provided by Energias Market Research, the global medical cannabis market is projected to increase in value from USD 8.28 Billion in 2017 to USD 28.07 Billion in 2024 and at a CAGR of 19.1% from 2018 to 2024. There are many significant developments that help increase the growth rate of the market, such as the increasing acknowledgment of medicinal benefits and higher demand for cannabis in the treatment of various diseases, as well as growing research and development investments. The data also shows that sales of cannabis products for recreational use are also likely to rise as California’s new laws regarding recreational sales went into effect earlier this year. Chemesis International Inc. (OTC :CADMF ), MedMen Enterprises Inc. (OTC :MMNFF ), Integrated Cannabis Company, Inc. (OTC :ICNAF ), United Cannabis Corporation (OTC :CNAB ), Cannabics Pharmaceuticals Inc. (OTC :CNBX )

Canada had recently passed a nationwide legalization of recreational cannabis use, following Uruguay to become the second country to do so. According to CBC, Canada is one of only two countries, besides the Netherlands, that exports cannabis products, which allows companies in Canada to gain instant revenue from recent medical cannabis legalizations in more than 20 countries. CBC reported that the “offerings in today’s Canada medical marijuana market differ little from those used recreationally – the smokable plant and, more recently, oil extracts. More than 70 companies have licenses from the federal drug regulator, Health Canada, to cultivate, produce and sell medical marijuana, with more than half those licenses granted in 2017 or 2018.”

Chemesis International Inc. (OTC :CADMF ) is also listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the ticker (CSE: CSI). Earlier last week, the Company announced, “the opening of its wholly owned subsidiary Chemesis Latin America. Through this subsidiary, the Company is exploring and completing advanced due diligence on opportunities for cultivation, production and export from the Latin American market. The Company believes it will be able to quickly gain market share in Latin America through the use of its networks and existing expertise.

Chemesis’ long-term growth strategy is focused on international expansion. Globally, regulation changes are occurring for both medical and recreational cannabis, and as these changes occur, Chemesis intends to be a first mover by leveraging its existing networks and developing brands suited for the Latin American market. Mexico is a great example of these changes, as president-elect, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has the job of overseeing rule making and regulations around Mexico’s new marijuana law, unveiled a plan to change the country’s drug strategy in several big ways.

Colombia, another front-runner in the Latin American cannabis market, is rapidly growing its capabilities. The government is hoping to grow up to 40.5 tons of cannabis per year, which would account for approximately 44% of the licenses issued globally. Colombia is estimated to capture as much as one-fifth of the global market, a value of $40 billion a year.

“Chemesis Latin America is a big step forward in our global growth strategy,” said CEO, Edgar Montero. “We believe Chemesis has a major advantage in this region, as the recent acquisition of Natural Ventures can be leveraged to quickly capitalize on upcoming opportunities. With progressive regulations, Latin America becomes a key market that will be a major part of our portfolio. The Company has positioned itself to take advantage of significant opportunities in both Mexico and Colombia. This allows Chemesis to execute on its ambitious growth strategy to identify opportunities that will build long-term shareholder value. The company plans to announce the specific countries and jurisdictions where it will be operating in the near future.”

About Chemesis International Inc.: Chemesis International Inc. is a vertically integrated global leader in the cannabis industry, currently operating within Puerto Rico, and California. Chemesis is developing a strong foothold in key markets, from cultivation, to manufacturing, distribution, and retail. Chemesis has facilities in both Puerto Rico and California, allowing for cost effective production and distribution of its products. In addition, Chemesis leverages exclusive brands and partnerships and uses the highest quality extraction methods, to provide consumers with quality cannabis products. Chemesis will add shareholder value by exploring opportunities in emerging markets while consistently delivering quality product to its consumers from seed to sale.”

MedMen Enterprises Inc. (OTCQB: MMNFF) is a leading cannabis company in the U.S. with assets and operations across the country. MedMen Enterprises Inc. recently announced it has secured prime retail locations with long-term leases in Ft. Lauderdale, Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, St. Petersburg and Key West. The Company continues to expand its footprint in premium retail districts with high visibility and heavy foot traffic. Florida is the third most populous state in the U.S. with a rapidly growing medical cannabis market and large potential adult use market. The state has high tourist activity and is home to the largest elderly community in the nation. According to Arcview, medical cannabis sales are estimated to be approximately USD 1.4 Billion by 2021. “Our entry into Florida through this acquisition demonstrates our growing national footprint as well as our ability to execute,” said Adam Bierman, MedMen Chief Executive and Co-Founder. “Our real estate team is hard at work preparing to put MedMen branded stores in the most coveted locations in Florida – locations in highly desirable and defensible market areas with high foot traffic and proximity to popular brand retailers.”

Integrated Cannabis Company, Inc. (OTCQB: ICNAF) is comprised of dedicated scientists and product engineers who are passionate about health and creating health and lifestyle products utilizing advanced delivery systems and formulations. The Company recently announced the completion of a market-ready Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-infused spray product and the required licensure for manufacturing of the product in Colorado. Over the past ten months the Company has engaged and worked with contractors, consultants and various state and municipal regulators in order to successfully gain licensing and approvals for facilities that manufacture CBD- and THC-infused products in the State of Colorado. “We are pleased to be adding THC products to our proprietary line of sprays and plan to launch via distribution in Colorado beginning in Q4 and shall pursue other legal markets thereafter,” said Mr. John Knapp, CEO of Integrated Cannabis.

United Cannabis Corporation (OTCQB: CNAB) is a biotechnology company dedicated to the development of phyto-therapeutic based products supported by patented technologies for the pharmaceutical, medical, and industrial markets. United Cannabis Corporation recently announced that it has signed an Agreement with Releaf Global Pty Ltd. to form and operate an Australian corporation for the purpose of commercializing the Company’s patented Prana Bio Nutrient Medicinals, cannabis-centric products and technologies in Australia and other territories. On February 24th, 2016, Australia legalized medical marijuana for patients with painful and chronic conditions and provided for approved companies to import, store and sell cannabis while domestic production ramped up to support patient demand. Australia’s Office of Drug Control in the Federal Department of Health issued the first license under the medicinal cannabis provision earlier this year, on February 17th. Earnest Blackmon, United Cannabis’ Chief Executive Officer, commented, “Australia represents a substantial opportunity for United Cannabis. Our Prana line is ideally suited for new markets as it provides patients and caregivers with a guided program to develop therapies targeted to a given patient’s unique concerns.”

Cannabics Pharmaceuticals Inc. (OTCQB: CNBX) is a U.S public company that has developed a platform which leverages novel drug-screening tools and artificial intelligence to develop cannabinoid-based therapies for cancer that are more precise to a patient’s genetic profile. The Company recently announced that it has received encouraging results in its preclinical study showing one of its proprietary cannabinoid compounds causing a higher rate of cancer cell death compared to traditional chemotherapy. Cannabics is rapidly expanding its database of cancer and cannabinoids and established a library of cannabinoid compounds to explore the biological versatility and entourage effect. Additionally, the Company has been granted a patent in Israel on its core technology of screening the effectiveness of cannabis compounds on human biopsies. The research and development center, in Israel, has leveraged its capabilities and accomplished the implementation of the patented technology. Dr. Eyal Ballan, Co-founder and Chief Technical Officer, said: “I am excited to share the positive results and hope for meaningful collaborations with industry leaders in cancer treatment. There is an advantage in developing cannabis medicine since we explore compounds that are been delivered to patients worldwide and to finetune the antitumor potential in such a dispersed treatment has a promising value.”

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Stay Home, Canadians

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Rob M.

Back in June Canada legalized recreational cannabis for adults over 21. Retail sales begin in October. It was a huge signal to the rest of the “civilized” world that times were a-changing, and the freaks were winning the war. I assumed it bode well for us. After all, America is a nation of hubris, and we’d be damned if we let those weak-kneed, poutine-eating hippies beat us at any race.

Our friendly neighbors to the north received a not-so-friendly message last week when Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations with the US Customs and Border Protection agency, told Politico that anyone working in the cannabis industry would not be allowed into the country and would be banned from entering for life. Those with a ban can apply for a waiver, which costs $585 and takes several months to process.

Most shocking was the revelation that anyone who has even invested in a cannabis company will also be barred from entering the US, on the grounds that they’re benefiting from drug trafficking. This landed a huge hit to cannabis stocks, which MarketWatch reports fell in the hours following the report’s publication.

Section 212 of the US Immigration and Nationality Act says a foreigner “who is determined to be a drug abuser or addict,” or anyone who “is or has been an illicit trafficker in any controlled substance,” is ineligible to receive visas or be admitted into the US.

According to Owen, travelers are not required to announce whether they have ever smoked cannabis or are involved in the industry, but border agents are instructed to ask questions if they believe they’ve smelled cannabis or if anything is detected by inspection dogs. He pointed out that lying to these agents will also be rewarded with a lifetime ban.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but this seems like a really sneaky way to undermine the cannabis industry and force investors to flee. But despite the initial reaction, many of the cannabis companies reportedly made up their losses by the end of the day, begging the question: Why would the federal government be so stupid as to make a big fluff about this? Are we really going to start turning business people away at the border to prove a point? Canadians reportedly made more than 42 million same-day and overnight trips into the US last year. Come next month, that number will probably get chopped off at the knees.

N.M. Rejects Cannabis for Opioid Addiction Again

Surprise, surprise. New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher once again ignored science and the advice of experts to include opioid dependence on the department’s list of conditions that qualify a patient to receive a medical cannabis card.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Gallagher wrote in a decision: “I cannot say with any degree of confidence that the use of cannabis for treatment of opioid dependence and its symptoms would be either safe or effective.”

I can relate to an extent–there hasn’t been much research in the area yet, thanks to federal bans–but calling it unsafe is ridiculous. And the research that does exist is incredibly positive and compelling. A couple of months ago, I talked to Associate Professor Dr. Jacob Miguel Vigil of the University of New Mexico about the psychology department’s research into this exact subject. A paper co-authored by Vigil, “Associations between medical cannabis and prescription opioid use in chronic pain patients” gained plenty of press nationally for finding a correlation between decreased opioid prescriptions and the level of access a patient has to some form of legal cannabis.

I was shocked when he told me over a plate of tacos that he thought Big Pharma was actively keeping research from happening because it was so good at treating opioid addiction. “When we were analyzing some of the data that showed that opiate use dramatically dropped, not only did I get chills,” he told me, “but there was explicit thoughts that the information may put us at physical risk of harm if it were disclosed.”

I doubt Gallagher is unaware of the study. One thing she’s definitely aware of is the 5 to 1 vote by the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to recommend the condition be included. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, New Mexico doctors wrote 70 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people in 2015.

In 2016, we had a total number of 349 opioid-related overdose deaths in New Mexico. Compared to the number of cannabis overdose deaths (a whopping zero), the idea of saying you don’t think it would be safe is laughable. For shame, Gallagher.

Gallagher also declined the advisory board’s recommendations to add muscular dystrophy, Tourette’s syndrome, eczema and psoriasis as qualifying conditions for the state’s medical cannabis program. She did add obstructive sleep apnea. What a peach.

Cannabis Industry Loves Lujan Grisham

Last week, The Associated Press reported Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s campaign finance filings show a number of contributions from state medical cannabis companies.

According to the report, the candidate received more than $20,000 from cannabis contributors since July. Some of the companies included in the list were the Verdes Foundation and MJ Express-O.

Lujan Grisham has expressed support for legalizing recreational cannabis use for adults in New Mexico. Her opponent Rep. Steve Pearce–on the other hand–weirdly said cannabis is an “obstacle in front of people who are struggling to get out of poverty.”

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S Africa legalises private use of cannabis

South Africa’s highest court has allowed the private use of marijuana, upholding a lower court’s ruling that found the criminalisation of cannabis was unconstitutional.

Activists who include members of the Rastafarian movement and traditional healers greeted the ruling with loud applause. They have held marches over the years to demand that the law be changed to allow people to smoke ‘weed’, which is called ‘dagga’ in South Africa.

Several government departments, including the health and justice ministries, oppose its legalisation and warn of harmful effects.

But in a unanimous judgment read by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, the Constitutional Court decriminalised home consumption, saying “the use of cannabis must be for the personal consumption of the adult”.

Tuesday’s ruling also approved growing marijuana for personal consumption.

Rastafarian Garreth Prince and former Dagga Party leader Jeremy Acton brought the case asking the High Court to allow for the home use of marijuana.

Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, known as the “Dagga Couple”, joined the case, and asked the court to strike down laws banning the use, cultivation and sale of marijuana.

He added that it would not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for their personal consumption in private.

However, the judgment did not specify the amount that can be used by an adult in private use.

“This must be determined by parliament,” he said.

Parliament is now expected to amend the laws that criminalise cannabis following the court ruling.

Activists had argued that the criminalisation of dagga use and possession is a violation of the right to equality, dignity, and freedom of religion.

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