New Mexico State Police are being taught to look for signs of impairment during traffic stops instead of targeting cannabis users.
Unlike alcohol, there isn’t an accurate way to determine the level of impairment that a cannabis user is experiencing. This is because there has been little research into the effects of using cannabis over time and the tolerance that users can build against its psychotropic properties. Experts believe that the answer to safely detecting impairment without targeting all cannabis users is more comprehensive field sobriety examinations rather than testing for THC levels—a practice which can lead to faulty results since THC can stay in a person’s system for months.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, $750,000 has been given to the Department of Public Safety to train officers in the Drug Recognition Expert certification program. To determine if a driver is operating their vehicle while impaired, officers will use a standard field sobriety test for both alcohol and drugs. Drivers will be evaluated based on erratic driving, bloodshot eyes, impaired speech and the presence of the smell of marijuana. The smell of cannabis will no longer be used as the basis for suspicion of illegal activity, however.
State police Capt. Micah Doering told reporters that officers in the Drug Recognition Expert program will be able to spot signs of impairment regardless of a person’s THC levels. “There are those who use regularly and are far less impaired, or not impaired, with cannabis in their system,” he said. “We need to treat people individually based on their personal impairment level, not just a number.”
The State Police’s acknowledgment that there is a difference between cannabis use and cannabis impairment is an incredibly progressive move forward and signals that state law enforcement agencies are ready to embrace legalization.
Surgeon General Calls For Decriminalization
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy blasted the War on Some Drugs last week, calling for an end to cannabis incarcerations.
During an interview with CNN, Murthy said, “When it comes to marijuana, I think we have to let science guide us, and we know that the science tells us that there are some benefits from marijuana from a medical perspective. But there are also some harms that we have to consider, and we have to put those together as we think about the right policy.” He went on to blast cannabis incarcerations, however. “I don’t think that there is value to the individual or to society to lock people up for marijuana use. I don’t think that serves anybody well.”
In the past Murthy has expressed reservations about the speed with which some states were legalizing cannabis, and he once again reiterated that policy should follow the science. “In terms of our approach to marijuana, I worry when we don’t let science guide our process and policymaking,” he said. “And as surgeon general that’s my role, is to work with policymakers who work with members in the community and the general public to help people understand what science tells us and where you gaps, to help fill those gaps with research and with honest inquiry.”
Pot Increases Home Values
A recent study found that cities that allowed retail cannabis sales saw an increase in property values.
The Clever Real Estate study analyzed data from Zillow’s historical home price index and found that, between 2014 and 2019, cities with retail cannabis establishments saw an average home value increase of $22,888. States where adult-use cannabis is legal reportedly experienced a bump in home values immediately after legalizing, whether any retailers actually opened or not.
According to the researchers, homes within 0.1 miles of retail recreational dispensaries increased in value by about 8.4 percent more than homes further away. Homes in Denver saw property values increase 67.8 percent since retailers opened their doors in 2014, the greatest increase in the city in over 20 years. Home values across Colorado have increased by 58 percent since retail cannabis sales started. In Washington, home values have increased 57 percent in that time.
Perhaps surprisingly, for cities where only medicinal cannabis was legal, home values reportedly increased at comparable rates to cities where marijuana is completely illegal.
The researchers concluded that the value increase results from the cannabis market’s ability to attract home buyers that want to take part in the industry or simply act as consumers in a legal market.
State Moves Ahead With Grower Licenses
State regulators say cannabis producers will be able to get their provisional licenses next month.
According to KOAT, Regulations and Licensing Department Superintendent Linda Trujillo told reporters last week that growers should be able to get their provisional licenses by Aug. 22. “The provisional license does not let you start functioning or operating as a cannabis business, but it does at least give you that assurance so that you can then go on and get the things that you must pay for and your local stuff and then come back to us and show us that you have got it and then get licensed to start operating,” said Trujillo.
Although the licenses will not allow companies to begin operations yet, Trujillo encouraged potential licensees to begin doing research and gathering materials ahead of time.
Provisional licenses for retailers won’t be made available until January at the latest.
Study: Legalization Curbs Opioid Abuse
Another study has suggested that access to cannabis can help reduce opioid abuse.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh conducted an analysis of emergency room visits involving opioids from 2011 through 2017 in 29 states, including four that legalized marijuana in some capacity—California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts. The study was published in the journal Health Economics and was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Researchers found that emergency room visits dropped by an average of 7.6 percent in the four states where cannabis is legal within a year of legalization. Researchers reportedly adjusted for local economic conditions, Medicaid availability and prescription drug monitoring programs.
The study found that cannabis was “likely not a panacea,” however, and that it could only help curb opioid use to a certain extent.