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Joshua Lee is a news and science reporter. He has been one of the leading cannabis reporters in New Mexico for the last five years, and his work has appeared in Weekly Alibi, Right Where You Are Sitting Now and the Disinformation Company.

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The House provided some entertaining “what could have been” scenarios this month when they approved a bill that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level and another bill that would give researchers better access to cannabis. Too bad the Republican-controlled Senate will be keeping them from going anywhere.

Last week the internet exploded when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. If made law, the bill would have descheduled marijuana at the federal level and expunged the criminal records of low-level cannabis offenders. It was touted as the biggest cannabis bill to ever hit the pavement. And it was—incredibly—embraced by the House with a vote of 228 to 164.

They say it was a historic vote against prohibition. They say it means Congress is finally seeing reason and is ready to end the War on Some Drugs. But the truth is it was a lot of political theater meant to boost the weed creds of everyone involved (including Vice President-elect Kamala Harris) and give cannabis advocates something to gush over, even though no one actually expects it to become law.

As long as the GOP continues to hold onto the Senate, you won’t see anything this radical approved. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took time out during a floor speech to razz the so-called effort. “The House of Representatives is spending this week on pressing issues like marijuana. You know, serious and important legislation befitting this national crisis.”

Another bill that would give researchers access to cannabis sourced from actual dispensaries for the purpose of studying the effects of the drug has a slightly greater chance of getting through. The Medical Marijuana Research Act passed in the House last week with bipartisan support. Given the less controversial nature of the legislation, it has some chance of seeing approval in the Senate as well, but no one should hold their breath.

Better get comfortable. Stalemates like these will likely continue for the next four years if Georgia voters elect Republicans during their Senate races next month. With Biden in the Oval Office and a Republican Congress, we likely won’t be seeing much progress with cannabis reform at the federal level.

Panel Recommends Raising Plant Limit

The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board held an online meeting last week to discuss the plant growth limit placed on licensed producers by the state. They recommended that the health secretary raise the limit.

The Associated Press reports that a petition to either increase the plant limits allowed by the state or remove them altogether pressed the panel to meet and vote on the topic. Board Chairwoman Stephanie Richmond reportedly supported the move because it aligned with another board recommendation to increase purchase limits for patients. She also pointed out that the state’s list of qualifying conditions to enter the program could expand in the coming years to include anxiety, attention deficit disorders and some substance abuse disorders, which could lead to a significant increase of patients and demand.

Licensed medical cannabis producers in the state are currently limited to growing 1,750 plants. Duke Rodriguez, CEO of the state’s largest producer Ultra Health, has long found any excuse to advocate for increasing the limits. In a press release the company claimed that, under the current limits, only 51,950 plants have been licensed in total—equaling about half a plant for each patient. This arguably violates state law, which guarantees that the Medical Cannabis program provide an “adequate supply” of the drug for patients enrolled in the program.

But some have voiced opposition to the idea. Despite previous plant limit increases, medical cannabis prices have failed to drop significantly over the last five years, and product quality across the entire industry is notably lower than what can be found in other states’ legal markets.

Dominick Zurlo, director of the state’s medical cannabis program, said licensed producers will be able to request permission to grow an additional 500 plants starting next year.

Weed Could Have Helped Dems

A new report claims that supporting cannabis legalization would have helped Democrats avoid their Congressional failures in November.

Last week progressive think tank Data For Progress joined other progressive groups to poll 1,375 voters in congressional districts where Democrats lost. According to the poll, most swing district voters wanted to see larger COVID relief responses, $15 an hour federal minimum wage and marijuana legalization.

The poll found that 57 percent of all participants wanted to see cannabis legalized, while a huge 71 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents favored it. “This significant and growing support for marijuana legalization across party lines demonstrates clear potential for the Democratic Party to capitalize on the popularity of marijuana legalization as a key part of their policy agenda,” wrote the report’s authors.

NM MMJ Sales Spike

New Mexico medical marijuana sales have reportedly doubled over the last two years, and experts say that the state is projected to do well if it legalizes recreational cannabis.

According to Marijuana Business Daily, New Mexico medical cannabis sales are on track to reach around $200 million for 2020, compared to $130 million in 2019. The number of cannabis patients in the state has reportedly quadrupled since 2016. Experts say that a recreational cannabis market in New Mexico could generate up to $350 million annually by its fourth year of operation. This would go a long way toward addressing financial woes suffered by the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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