Chronic Pain waits for no one. (Did you think it did?)

http://medicalmarijuanaradio.com/mmjradio-01-03-2015-nm-cannabis-hearing-s6-e01/

Even though I’ve given up on this state’s medical cannabis program, that doesn’t mean I don’t watch the soap opera from afar.

The video attached is a radio program that has snippets from the recent public hearing at the Department of Health. It’s worth watching, if only for the speech by Cisco McSorley, one of my heroes. Honorable mentions go to Drs. Bill Johnson and Laura Brown, and Dana Rice from Sandia Botanicals — gracias. And a big thanks to all of the patients who were able to attend and had the courage to speak.

Thanks go to Larry Love too, of course — even though I don’t always agree with him, he seems like a pretty good dude.

What to do about a medical cannabis program that appears unfixable? It doesn’t really matter what I think… but that won’t stop me from offering an opinion 🙂

I don’t think there’s enough information about the overall program to propose any solutions at this point. In fact, the history of the program shows that the DOH has always made changes using flimsy and anecdotal evidence to support them, and without an actual understanding of how the program works or what the effects of any changes might be.

In other words, it’s a crap shoot. How do you think anyone taking prescription medications would feel if having access and obtaining their medicine was a crap shoot? (And how would they feel if their medications weren’t covered by insurance, and they had to start paying taxes on them?)

And while I appreciate all the patients who spoke at the hearing and support this program, I’m sorry, but I’m not a gambler. The history of this 5-year-old program does not instill confidence, and neither does the current political climate. I’m sure all of the producers are trying their best, but in five years, this program has just gone from bad to worse.  Or maybe the better description would be stagnant.

I really appreciate those who spoke about the cost of renewal and how ridiculous, redundant, and expensive this process is; but even if there were no annual renewal costs at all, I still couldn’t afford the prices being charged by the dispensaries in New Mexico. And if I can’t afford them, there must be a lot of other people who can’t either.

Even if I were able to renew at this point, there’s still the hurdle of passing Dr. Rosenberg’s inspection — and the question of having medical records that are no more than 5 years old.

But most importantly, I can’t afford to buy medicine that’s not strong enough to treat my medical condition — which I did about 80% of the time during the year I was enrolled in the program. Unfortunately, I don’t think testing or a product label is going to make a difference in the quality and strength of the strains which are currently available.

I guess it will be New MexiCann and Americans for Safe Access that decide how each product will be advertised — I mean, labeled. Or will there even be a standard?

And what the heck happened to Jeremy Applen at Page Analytical? Dude, I’m so sorry…

(More on testing:  http://forum.nmcannabisreview.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=151)

There’s no doubt that this program works for some patients — I guess I just wasn’t one of the lucky ones. And although I feel a little guilty for not continuing to fight, I can’t escape this one fact: Chronic pain waits for no one. (And from what I’m learning about addiction, I think the same rule may apply.)

I’ve been fighting for my medicine, for treatment, for pain management, for a quarter of a century. I’m really not physically or mentally capable of continuing to bang my head against a brick wall. I’ve analyzed the situation to the best of my ability, and I believe I’ve made the right decision. After all, one must have hope, and although I keep looking for hope in this program, I can’t find any…

However, that doesn’t mean I can’t watch for change from afar…

Shortages as of 10/19/2014

It looks like the problem of shortages has been “solved” by the Producers, including the opinion that new producers aren’t needed. Is anyone surprised?

From New MexiCann newsletter for the week of 10/19/14 (by Len Goodman):

As you probably know, all Licensed Non Profit Producers turn in a very extensive report to the Dept. every three months. The report covers total yields, average yield per plant, on-hand inventories, sales by product category, compensation to employees, number of unique Patients served, total number of transactions, sales by county, transfers between LNPPs, etc.

After we filed on Friday, I went back to 2012 and 2013 to compare our cultivation yields. I knew New MexiCann was getting better all the time, but had lost track of how far we had come. Carlos and Jennifer and their crew are doing an absolutely amazing job and thought we might be interested in these numbers. I ignored 2010 when our plant count was only 95 plants and 2011 since it was not until the last quarter that we were fully built out to handle the increased plant count of 150 total plants.

Average Ounces per Harvested Plant
Reporting Quarter, 2014, 2013, 2012

January – March: 13.2, 10.9, 6.6
April – June: 15.1, 11.7, 6.7
July – September: 16.3, 11.5 , 8.3
October – December: N/A, 10.7, 10.7

When the Dept. received the results from the independent Supply Survey it had ordered, an enormous Supply Shortage was uncovered. As Producers, we all knew how quickly we were running out of Medicine. The yield reports used for that survey were based on early 2013 reports to the Dept. Since then, the shortage, while still real, is much less than it was. We run out far less frequently.

I think that New MexiCann is not alone in its 50% increase in yields since the Survey. [Unless I’m reading this chart wrong, I believe the 50% figure is incorrect. It looks like New MexiCann’s yields have mostly doubled since 2012, but the survey was done in 2013. So the increase from 2013 to 2014 (so far) looks to be around 30%.]

Many Producers have greatly improved their techniques and yields and are experiencing similar increases. With the Dept.’s proposed increase in plant count to 450 – coupled with Producers increased skills, I expect that there will no longer be a shortage of Medicine by mid 2015. It will take a while for LNPPs to build out and take advantage of three times as many plants as we are currently allowed to grow.

As the number of NM MCP Registered Patients increases, we may someday need more Licensed Producers, but with the coming plant count increase, that day is quite some time away. I doubt if new LNPPs will be needed until the number of Registered Patients get to at least 18-20.000.

Perhaps one of the reasons producers are now “running out far less frequently,” is because more patients are leaving the program (and the state) — or are being denied access — than are being added.

My review for New MexiCann (3/26/2014)

(As posted at nmcannabisreview.com, a website that has disappeared.)

I found New MexiCann to be as described in Smokin’ Cannabis’ review from last year (although he got a free gram, and I didn’t). I’ll get to the most important part first, a review of the only strain I purchased:

Blue Dream
Sativa (80%)
Batch: BD30
Total potential THC: 12.147%; 0.579% CBG (actual weight)
Genetics: Blueberry x Super Silver Haze
$11.43/gram
$22.85/joint

New MexiCann’s Blue Dream is a fresh, citrus diesel with fruity undertones, which I chose mostly by smell. (Although a good sales job helped matters along.) There were no seeds or resin, and the usual amount of sticks/stems, along with a nice cure (similar to some of Greenleaf’s strains).

I’m giving it a strength rating of 3.75 (3, plus .75 for terpene strength), which means it’s not strong enough to treat chronic pain.

I sampled this strain over a period of five days; first on its own, then added to others. Because I had it for this length of time, I was able to notice an increase in the smell as it “aged” — an added bonus. (See Terpene Strength, below.)

Now for my “lifestyle” review:

New MexiCann produced its first crop in February 2010, and is one of the top two producers in New Mexico. Len Goodman serves as the Executive Director and is involved with numerous industry groups, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Freedom to Choose campaign for veterans, and is the founder of the New Mexico Cannabis Producers Guild.

I found New MexiCann in Santa Fe on a windy Tuesday afternoon in early March, located next to an outdoor stone fountain, a yoga place, and a bistro. After filling out the necessary paperwork, I glanced through easily-accessible binders of test results in the waiting room.

Then I met with a young gentleman who introduced himself as Eli [Goodman], and he explained the dispensaries products and services. We moved on to discussing THC, terpenes, moisture levels, and all things cannabis. I found Eli to be not only knowledgeable on the subject, but willing to take the time to share this information. I don’t know how long the consultation lasted, but the process never felt rushed — and, at the end of it, all the questions I had (at the time) were answered.

I told Eli I was interested in the Blackberry Kush, but I noticed that morning it was no longer listed on their website. Eli waved off my interest in that strain, saying it was from a different producer. At the time I visited New MexiCann, the Blue Dream and Super Silver Haze were the two strains with the highest THC levels. Eli was very enthusiastic about their Blue Dream, so we mostly discussed that strain. But there was another sativa, Super Silver Haze, that was currently testing higher in THC than the Blue Dream. So I asked to smell the SSH, but was not impressed; in the end, I chose the Blue Dream.

One of the best things about New MexiCann is their willingness to share information with patients, along with making that information easily accessible through their website and newsletters. Both of these sources include a menu with links to test results, and the newsletter has a list of strains that are “now in cure, available soon,” and “now in flower.”

There was one link from their website that took me to an interesting survey done by New MexiCann in 2010, which showed their patients’ ratings of most strains at an almost 3.5 (out of 5) — between “some help” and “good help” — but nothing rated for “great help.”

Mr. Goodman spoke of the survey in a 2011 article: “I’m beginning to no longer believe in any specifics for anything,” the somewhat frustrated grower told me. Goodman recently conducted a survey of his patients and the nine strains the dispensary offered in the last year. There was little variation in the patients’ responses between the strains. “All you could tell from the graphs is that most people liked NY Diesel and Trainwreck across the board, for every condition — from depression to seizures.” http://www.gtodblog.com/2011/01/choice-strains-matching-up-strains-with.html

On the negative side, I noticed that New MexiCann’s website has more than one outdated link (and one for Rick Simpson oil), along with the problems I found in this producer’s reporting of THC/CBD percentages (discussed further below).

Terpene Strength

What do I consider good or strong terpenes? Since terpenes are about smell, of course everyone’s opinion is going to be different as to what constitutes good ones. There is also the matter of longevity. If you are lucky enough to purchase, say, a week’s adequate supply at once, what your bud smells like on the first day could change. And it could be a good change, like wine; or the smell may weaken and dissipate, like freshly cut grass into hay.

This batch of New MexiCann’s Blue Dream was like wine; and over a period of five days, the smell just got better with time. I can see why this strain is popular (if it really is), and it appears the producer is working to make it stronger. But since this batch is labeled “BD30,” I’m going to assume it is their 30th attempt at bringing forth the best this strain’s genetics has to offer — which turns out to be not strong enough for me.

In the past, I have found that a decrease in terpene strength does not seem to affect a strain’s THC strength. Similarly, for New MexiCann’s Blue Dream, even though it enjoyed an increase in terpene strength over time, this did not have the effect of increasing the THC strength.

Testing

Eli told me that New MexiCann tests each new batch for every strain, but I’m unable to verify this. Considering how much the same strain can differ with each harvest, it only makes sense to test each one, so I hope dispensaries adopt this standard.

In the two binders with test results for 2013 and 2014 that I flipped through in the waiting room before I met with Eli, I noted that Blue Dream had been tested many times, with a THC potential ranging from around 15% to 20%. Eli said that this batch had about an 11% moisture rating, and that a high moisture level detracts from the potential THC percentage, which is why it tested so low this time. But that’s not quite accurate. For example, a previous batch, BD29, also tested at almost 11% moisture, yet had a THC potential of 19.278% (actual weight).

He went on to say that since the BD30 had been tested a week ago, the bud had been drying out even further in tightly-sealed jars. Really, he had me convinced that, even though he said the BD30 had tested at 15%, it would medicate at almost 20%. As I said earlier, quite a sales job.

The BD30 was reported in New MexiCann’s newsletter and website at 15.5% THC/THCA and 0.6% CBD/CBG, while the 3/4/14 test results actually indicate THC potential at 13.635% (dry weight). However, actual weight had a THC potential of 12.147%, while CBG tested at 0.579% (and CBD at zero). Moisture content for this test was 10.91%.

On March 16th, I emailed Eli about the discrepancies I found specifically for the Blue Dream testing, and requested the test results for BD29. He subsequently sent the results to me, and responded to this issue, as follows:

“We do not post the total THC potential, I don’t quite understand that number, test numbers shown by other medical states is based in the actual content not a potential. We use a combination of the THC/THCA and CDD/CBG this is what is noted on your item.”

A re-test was performed for the BD30 on March 21st, and this time the “Total Potential THC” percentage is not even included. (Is this the new “standard”?) The results for this test show THCA at 23.784% and CBG at 0.487% for dry weight (even though the figures reported by New MexiCann are rounded up to 24% and 0.5%, respectively, and labeled as combinations of THC/THCA and CBD/CBG).

I know all these figures from the test results are hard to keep straight; but, if you will notice the way this dispensary hand-picks (or appears to pull out of thin air) both the percentages and labeling (THC/THCA, which merges two different categories into one) — so that a patient is not only confused, but cannot compare apples to apples.

Since New MexiCann is the only dispensary in the state with a pending PFC certification (see Cannabis Testing LABS), I don’t understand why they are employing this type of obfuscation in reporting test results. And I don’t see how New MexiCann is going to be at the forefront of creating standardized procedures for cannabis testing if trust is not part of the equation.

Super Silver Haze

For anyone interested in the Super Silver Haze, genetics are listed as Skunk x Northern Lights x Haze. Although the menu lists SSH at 19%/1%, the linked test is dated March 4th, showing THC potential at 16.63% (dry weight). For actual weight, the THC potential is 15.12%. The test also shows percentages for actual weight for CBD (0.00), CBG (0.924), CBN (0.185), and CBC (0.329).

To look at a small sampling of SSH’s testing history for THC (and moisture):

19.18%, 1/09/13 (9.39% moisture)
18.17%, 2/25/13 (10.73% moisture)
15.12%, 3/04/14 (9.09% moisture)

(All are listed at actual weight.)

Price

All of New MexiCann’s bud is $11.43 per gram, the second lowest price in the market. Unfortunately, my price per joint on this Blue Dream strain is the highest I’ve calculated so far, at $22.85.

Conclusions

For new patients, a set-up like the one at New MexiCann works better than the initial choices I made for where to purchase my medicine. But as a “seasoned” medical cannabis patient, while I appreciated the service, what I’m left with is a lack of trust.

Because of the restrictive nature of New Mexico’s medical cannabis program, the average patient has already grown a healthy distrust of those in the medical establishment — and I can’t imagine that dispensaries want that distrust transferred to their industry. Something to keep in mind.

After all this, I guess the thing that bothered me the most was Eli’s somewhat competitive view of per-gram pricing (which I have proven is almost meaningless); and his choice to cast aspersions on another dispensary’s test results (which in the end, I found rather hypocritical). It was something I was not even going to mention in my review — behavior that might be optimistically described as competitive — until I started delving into all the different reporting discrepancies displayed by this dispensary. And then there was my surprise at calculating the cost of New MexiCann’s Blue Dream at $22.85/joint.

My overall conclusion? Disillusion.

___________________

Antonia’s Dream
13.05% THC, 02/11/14, AD-2 (9.23% moisture)

AK47
8.42% THC, 04/01/14, AK47-5 (7.87% moisture)

Apple Jacks
13.93% THC, 03/25/14, AJ-1 (7.26% moisture)

Blue Dream
18.71% THC, 12/26/12, BD16 (10.72% moisture)
19.27% THC, 01/28/14, BD29 (10.27% moisture)
12.14% THC, 03/04/14, BD30 (10.91% moisture)

Blue Moon
13.95% THC, 03/25/14, BM-3 (8.23% moisture)

Cannatonic
3.71% THC, 12/02/13, CA-4 (10.02% moisture)

LA Confidential
18.56% THC, 03/18/14, LAC-10 (8.82% moisture)

Lemon Sour Diesel
20.54% THC, 03/11/14, LSD-9 (9.75% moisture)
19.91% THC, 03/25/14, LSD-10_32514 (10.11% moisture)

Medicine Woman
21.51% THC, 01/21/13, MW-7 (11.9% moisture)
12.50% THC, 03/4/14, MW-12 (9.91% moisture)
MW-12 retest, 03/21/14, actual weight and moisture not listed

Raspberry Kush
17.93% THC, 03/25/14, RK-18 (9.95% moisture)

Shark Shock
5.88% THC, 12/03/13, SS-3 (9.28% moisture)

Shiva Skunk
13.54% THC, 02/11/14, SHS-12 (8.5% moisture)

*Super Silver Haze
20.61% THC, 04/08/14, SSH-20 (9.35% moisture)

Train Wreck
15.05% THC, 03/11/14, TW-28 (9.42% moisture)

UBC Chemo
13.33% THC, 03/04/14, UBCC-6 (10.27% moisture)

Z7
7.71% THC, 11/14/12, Z7-4 (9.55% moisture)
4.35% THC, 02/25/14, Z7-7 (9.5% moisture)