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 since Michelle Lujan Grisham, who supports legalization, won 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 30-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.
The N.M. Senate
In 2016, the effort reached the floor of the Senate as a constitutional amendment. Passing that legislation would have required a majority of the chamber, not just those voting, but also would have bypassed the governor and instead gone to voters for approval.
The Senate voted against the proposed amendment 17-24. Six Democrats voted against the proposal, and are unlikely to change their minds. Some changes in the Senate since then include two Republicans losing to Democrats, with one Democratic supporter losing to a Republican.
Ortiz y Pino thinks a change in approach could change the minds of some Republicans, giving an alternate pathway to passage.
“I don’t want to count on them, but several of them have indicated to me it’s certainly something they could support if it’s not a constitutional amendment,” Ortiz y Pino said. “That was the excuse they gave previously for voting against it, that it didn’t belong in the constitution.”
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Greenhouse growers can now bathe their crops in yield-boosting, late-summer-like sun rays all year round courtesy of Los Alamos startup Ubiquitous Quantum Dots.
UbiQD Inc. launched commercial sales of its red-light emitting window film for the first time this week, marking a major milestone for the 4-year-old company, and possibly a ground-breaking advance for greenhouse production.
The company says its film can boost crop yields by 10 percent or more by using quantum dots that shift sunshine into a red-light-emitting spectrum that mimics late-summer sun year-round. That’s considered the most potent time of year for plants because they sense winter coming and grow faster, said UbiQD CEO Hunter McDaniel.
“We’ve been testing it in greenhouses in commercial settings for about a year and a half now,” McDaniel said. “We’ve seen yield improvements in excess of 10 percent in numerous crops.”
The company is now selling rolls of quantum-dot-coated film as a simple retrofit that attaches to the undersides of greenhouse windows.
“You just string it up under any existing structure,” McDaniel said. “It’s quick and easy to install, so growers can test it out in sections before laying it out across acres of production.”
The film is currently installed in five commercial greenhouses in New Mexico, Oregon and Colorado, where growers are producing tomatoes, cucumbers, cannabis and hemp.
The film can last four to five years. It currently sells for $10 per square foot, but the company expects the price to drop over time, and McDaniel said growers can quickly earn back their investment through higher yields in just a few months.
The new “UbiGro” film is UbiQD’s first commercial product since launching in 2014. The company developed a low-cost, low-toxic process for making quantum dots, which are tiny, three-dimensional structures that manipulate light in unique ways. They’re used in everything from transistors and sunscreen to LCD televisions and smartphones.
The company is also building photovoltaic window coatings to generate electricity for buildings.
UbiQD uses a copper and zinc base in its manufacturing process, which it licensed from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. LANL recently completed extensive testing for toxicity that showed the product is “extremely safe,” McDaniel said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved UbiGro for commercial sales this month.
This post is part of our High-tech High series, which explores weed innovations, and our cultural relationship with cannabis, as legalization in several U.S. states, Canada, and Uruguay moves the market further out of the shadows.
Chicken and waffles. Moscow Mule. Gingerbread cookies. Plum.
Joe Edwards says he’s made cannabis flower taste like all of the above and then some, using a high-tech curing unit produced by Colorado startup Yofumo.
The plum was made specially for his grandma who uses cannabis for her arthritis pain but hates the taste.
“My grandmother has no interest in Skunk No. 1,” Edwards, vice president of client applications and deployment at Yofumo, jokes, referring to a popular cannabis strain that smells, well, skunky.
Yofumo is part of a growing contingent of companies using science and tech to experiment with cannabis terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic organic compounds found naturally in marijuana, and they impact weed’s flavor and smell. The type and amount can also have varying biological effects when paired with THC and CBD, according to marijuana researchers.
“My grandmother has no interest in Skunk No. 1.”
As terpene experimentation advances, more producers are adding the amount and type of terpenes in their offerings to product descriptions. The compound, lesser-known among the general public, is something consumers are becoming more aware of as they seek out a specific kind of high — or flavor.
“We’re seeing a lot of our patients, or our clients, are demanding to be able to see terpene expression data for the flower that they purchase,” says Philippe Henry, director of R&D genetics and analytics at Flowr, which operates cultivation facilities in Canada.
“It’s part of educating people that they can make better choices,” adds Henry, who has a Ph.D. in population genetics and has analyzed 5,000 cannabis plants to study terpenes and genetic markers.
Sometimes marketing gets in the way of information in the cannabis field. Blue Dream is a popular strain, but some producers may call their plant Blue Dream even if it isn’t the same as the original product, Henry says. Knowing more about the flower’s chemical expression, and how you react to that mix, helps you as a consumer.
While there are hundreds of terpenes, a few show up more frequently. Generally linalool, also found in lavender, calms you, while limonene, with its citrusy aroma, can give you energy. Keep in mind, compounds may impact people differently. For example, myrcene generally relaxes, but it could do so to a different degree depending on the individual. When it comes to terpenes, and cannabis in general, it’s often about finding what works for you.
“I like to refer to it as the Jurassic Park principle.”
“It’s synergism,” says Mark Lewis, founder and president of NaPro Research in California. He compares a single terpene or a single cannabinoid, be that THC or CDB, to a note — but when everything works together, it’s a chord.
While terpene levels in cannabis flower tend to be below 2 percent and cannabinoids hover around 20 percent, NaPro tweaks that through breeding plants with desired attributes together over several years. They’ve amped the terpene level up to 7 percent and THC down to 9 percent in one plant for a client entering a competition that awards top quality cannabis. Changing a plant’s composition can take years of breeding. Think about how watermelon today looks and tastes different than it did thousands of years ago, due to human intervention.
Once you get below 1.5 percent, the THC takes over, Lewis, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, says. But if a single terpene is higher than 2 percent, the flavor and impact “will hit you like a ton of bricks.” One NaPro offering that has 4.5 percent myrcene will cause one’s eyes to feel heavy for 15 minutes or so and then provide balanced, euphoric pain relief, Lewis claims.
NaPro Research has also built a search tool for clients to review the chemical expression of marijuana products to discern quality and value.
Flowr and NaPro mess around with a plant’s terpene profile through breeding, but Yofumo uses a different technique.
Its curing unit is currently only available commercially (the company is working on a consumer model). It releases terpenes from other plants stored in rods into a mahogany chamber, and through atmospheric transfer, the terpenes bind to the plant at a molecular level.
There’s a trend in the marijuana space of upping THC content to get super high, but Edwards says cultivators should look beyond THC.
“Instead of just maximizing THC potential, how can we also look at post-harvest curation practices and maximize terpene potential as well?” he questions.
OK, but how did he do that for his flower with hints of chicken and waffles?
He starts with scrutinizing what makes up the flavor of chicken and waffles — the herbs you use, the buttery crunch of the bready exterior, the syrupy sweetness — and then replicates that as best as he can through chemical means.
“Once you understand the creation and how this works, it really does open itself up to you,” Edwards says. “I like to refer to it as the Jurassic Park principle.”
Edwards has had his share of duds in the past, but those failures have helped fine-tune the curing process.
“I’ve personally consumed an amount of cannabis that is extraordinarily unpleasant,” Edwards says. “I’ve had results that are similar to orange dish detergent just as often as I’ve had them be similar to orange fruit.”
Yofumo customers work with flower as well as oil, but it’s the expanding vape and oil market that has added an extra boost to terpene’s rise. (The strength of terpene’s impact in flower versus oil can differ because of a variety of factors, including the types of terpenes used, their source — cannabis or another botanical, synthetic or natural — and the ratio of cannabinoids to terpenes.)
LucidMood adds terpenes from other botanicals to enhance cannabis oil for its vapes.
The Colorado company removes the jargon from the equation, naming vape pens based on the desired effect, including Energy, Calm, and Relief. Each contains roughly 40 percent THC, 40 percent CBD, and 20 percent terpenes. LucidMood is focused on new users, not the seasoned dabber. “It’s for the person who doesn’t have a Ph.D. in cannabis,” Tristan Watkins, LucidMood’s chief science officer, quips.
“The more that we learn about these, the more we can control.”
Calm includes geraniol, a terpene that smells like roses. LucidMood names its pens based on focus group studies in which the first group gets pens with terpenes and a second does not. By having a control group, LucidMood can show that terpenes were behind certain biological effects felt by the first group.
“The more that we learn about these, the more we can control,” Watkins, who has a Ph.D. in neurology, says.
There is a divide among terpene researchers, though. Purists believe terpenes should come from the cannabis plant, not an additive. There are also those who don’t want their marijuana’s flavor messed with at all.
“Consumers should be asking for a product that’s 100-percent cannabis,” Flowr’s Henry says. “The ones that are really 100-percent cannabis are going to catch a premium sliver of the market.”
As marijuana legalization spreads in the U.S., each state has its own regulations, from who can buy to requiring mold checks. At least two U.S. states, Nevada and New Mexico, mandate terpene testing.
Now, what about weed you eat? If terpenes bring flavor and aroma, are they being used in edibles? Not so much. Edibles tend to use distillates, a form of THC that is supposed to be void of taste, or cannabutter, which is butter infused with cannabis that provides a strong, euphoric high.
Periodic Edibles uses terpenes in their caramels, but for the effect, not the taste.
“We’re actually limited on how high we can go with the dosage because of the flavor that they add,” says the Oregon company’s founder, Wayne Schwind. If Schwind adds limonene to give a burst of energy, he doesn’t want the lemon flavor to overwhelm the caramel.
Periodic Edibles started listing terpene profiles on their packaging a few months ago. Schwind says budtenders, the people who sell weed at dispensaries, love it, but buyers are sometimes confused. Many don’t know what terpenes are, but that may change over time.
Multiple brewing companies have also been adding cannabis-derived terpenes to their beer. Devour Brewing Co. in Florida uses cannabis terpenes to add lemon, pine, and earthy flavors to its Florida Thunder IPA, and Lagunitas, a California brand owned by Heineken, adds them to its SuperCritical Ale. Prank, a Los Angeles bar, mixes terpenes in cocktails.
The terpene innovators may disagree on what’s best, but they concur that discerning customers will be key. Those seeking high-quality products, the craft beer drinkers of weed, if you will, are the target market for terpene experimentation.
“It’s not a big thing now, but I think that return to quality is going to explode,” says Yofumo founder Alfonso Campalans. “It’s really the only way the small and middle producer is going to compete.”
The midterms are over, but Democrats in the House have already found themselves locked in another contentious race that could ultimately have big implications for marijuana legislation in the 116th Congress.
Will Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reclaim her seat as speaker of the House? Or will a coalition of frustrated lawmakers usher in a new leader like Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), who has all but confirmed her intent to run for the position?
What’s known at this point is that at least 17 Democratic lawmakers have signed a letter opposing Pelosi’s bid, and a handful of others have made public statements affirming that they plan to vote against Pelosi when the new Congress is seated on January 3.
Here’s a look at where Pelosi and Fudge fall on marijuana issues:
Looking at voting records, Pelosi cosponsored a number of marijuana bills in the 1990s and early 2000s–including several to protect states that legalized medical cannabis from federal interference–but she hasn’t signed her name onto a single piece of standalone marijuana legislation over the past 17 years.
Although Pelosi started cosponsoring fewer bills in general after being named House speaker in 2007 and in her post-speakership years, she’s still put her name on dozens of pieces of legislation during that time–though none are related to marijuana.
Fudge, meanwhile, has been ramping up her bill cosponsorships when it comes to cannabis reform. Over the past two years, the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) signed on to a bill that would end federal marijuana prohibition and a resolution acknowledging the failures of the war on drugs, for example. Prior to the current Congress, though, she hadn’t signed onto any cannabis bills since first joining the House in 2008.
Aside from the issue of proactive bill sponsorship, both Pelosi and Fudge have consistently voted in favor of floor amendments to protect legal medical and adult-use marijuana states, allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend cannabis to patients, allow industrial hemp and expand access to banking institutions for marijuana businesses.
“Looking at the conversation of Democratic leadership right now and how the speaker vote is set to go, I would suspect that Pelosi is going to be elected to be the speaker for the 116th Congress,” NORML political director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment.
“Nancy Pelosi has demonstrated herself to be a very effective leader of the Democratic Caucus and was instrumental in ensuring a favorable vote outcome for the first time that the [Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)] language was passed on the House floor in order to restrict the Department of Justice’s ability to enforce federal prohibition against the states that have legalized medical marijuana programs. Her operation has been engaged with–and in regular talks with–our champions of the Cannabis Caucus and members who are supportive, and we have every indication that we will have her full support in moving legislation forward that would end federal prohibition.”
Where the two Democratic lawmakers seem to diverge is in public statements about cannabis reform. For example, Pelosi has talked about marijuana (and yoga) as a safer alternative to opioids and she pushed back against former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to rescind an Obama-era marijuana guidance policy.
“Congress must now take action to ensure that state law is respected, and that Americans who legally use marijuana are not subject to federal prosecution,” she said in a press release earlier this year. “Democrats will continue to insist on bipartisan provisions in appropriations bills that protect Americans lawfully using medical marijuana. Congress should now consider expanding the provisions to cover those states that have decriminalized marijuana generally.”
Pelosi also endorsed California’s successful adult-use legalization ballot measure in 2016.
“Pelosi has been a solid ally on drug policy reform,” Michael Collins, interim director for the office of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment. “She has voted for many marijuana reform amendments, been a tough negotiator on numerous appropriations issues, has fought against regressive drug sentencing proposals like [Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act].”
“Crucially, her staff have always been available, willing and ready to advance drug policy reform,” he said.
Fudge, meanwhile, has been relatively quiet on the issue in spite of her recent support for reform legislation. And she doesn’t seem to have weighed in on Ohio’s unsuccessful 2015 legalization ballot measure.
For all of Pelosi’s talk and votes on cannabis reform, though, she was noncommittal when asked in September whether she planned to bring marijuana bills to the floor in 2019 if Democrats retook the House.
“Well, the marijuana initiatives have received bipartisan support on the floor of the House,” Pelosi said. “I don’t know where the president is on any of this. So any decision about how we go forward would have to reflect where we can get the result.”
Fudge also hasn’t indicated that she’d pursue a marijuana reform agenda if selected to be speaker. Instead, she told HuffPost reporter Matt Fuller that she’d make issues like health care, student debt, infrastructure and job creation top priorities for Democrats.
Other potential House speaker contenders on cannabis.
Another Ohio Democrat, Rep. Tim Ryan, is reported to be floating another run for the speakership after losing to Pelosi for Democratic leader in 2016. Ryan said that he was initially reluctant to get behind marijuana legalization but, after witnessing the harms of prohibition, he wrote that cannabis “should be legal in all 50 states.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) is reported to be laying the groundwork for a future House speaker run, starting with a bid to become the next House Democratic Caucus chair, Politico reports. He’s a strong proponent of marijuana decriminalization. “The connected and powerful–including many in high political office–have frequently admitted to smoking marijuana when they were young,” Jeffries wrote in a 2012 editorial for CNN. “We didn’t unmercifully penalize them. We should stop needlessly criminalizing tens of thousands of our young people for doing the same thing.”
Then, of course, there’s Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), one of the most vocal advocates for cannabis reform on Capitol Hill for years. She’s also currently running to become the next House Democratic Caucus chair, though a sizable following of supporters are pushing her to compete against Pelosi in the speaker race. This year, Lee has introduced legislation to protect legal marijuana states and also promote diversity in the burgeoning cannabis industry.