State takes first steps to regulate cannabis for adults
On the first day of recreational cannabis legalization in New Mexico, the department overseeing the new industry held a regulatory hearing.
During the hearing, held by the New Mexico Department of Regulation and Licensing and its Cannabis Control Division, a long list of stakeholders voiced concerns about water conservation, l racial and social equity and transparency. But the public comment included almost as many questions for the ministry as there were concerns.
As New Mexico grapples with another drought this year, many speakers at the meeting voiced concerns about large cannabis companies worsening ongoing water problems in the state.
Alejandría Lyons, the environmental justice organizer at the Southwest Organizing Project, said she and the organization wanted to see more water use monitoring to protect family farms that are generations old across the board. the state.
“We worry about our acequias, we worry about our farmers who have already been told not to water, to fallow their fields,” Lyons said. “And more importantly, we are very worried about being forgotten. The state engineer’s office is already at full capacity and we are concerned that we need tighter regulations to prevent illegal water use, especially during a drought year, as we see currently. “
Jaimie Park, policy coordinator and staff lawyer for the New Mexico Acequia Association, said that although the cannabis regulation law details water requirements, such as proof of access to water or water rights, she and the association would like to see deliberate rules regarding legal access to water.
“It is really important that the regulatory language reflects the statutory language so that this important water protection mandate is legally and meaningfully implemented through these interim rules,” Park said.
Park added that she and the association have submitted written comments with suggestions that RLD and the Cannabis Control Division add strict water reporting requirements for cannabis growers.
One of the main selling points during the special legislative session that resulted in the new cannabis regulation law in effect was social justice and fairness. Sponsors of the bill argued that the legalization should also include a minimally restrictive pathway for New Mexicans to enter the industry. One provision in the law is the Cannabis Microenterprise Allowance, but under the proposed rules, microenterprises could be required to pay the state up to $ 2,500 per year. And all applicants must prove that they have physical space for their business before being licensed by RLD.
Patiricia Monaghan, a lawyer involved in the cannabis industry who spoke at the hearing, said she had represented a number of medical cannabis producers over the years and that they had never been required to sign a lease or purchase a building before obtaining a license.
“It’s difficult to require ownership documents from the property before being approved for a license, or possibly an insurmountable barrier to entry,” Monaghan said. “It’s just too much of a barrier for the small entrepreneur, the small business owner who wants to get started. You can’t ask them to do all of this before they’ve even gotten their license, even before they start their business.
Charles Jones, who identified himself as a medical cannabis patient qualified to grow his own cannabis and the operator of a hemp farm in northern New Mexico, also said he was concerned about the requirement. proposed by the department to have physical space before applying for a commercial cannabis license. He said it was already difficult to find space in Albuquerque for a small cannabis grow or retail business.
“Right now in Albuquerque there’s pretty much a war going on, any warehouse space is swallowed up by anyone who can,” Jones said. “And that’s before anyone has ever been approved, or any of those apps. So, before these apps even open, the entire warehouse space shrinks.
Many of those who spoke at the hearing made no comment, but instead had a list of questions as to when RLD might post nominations for industry applicants. All of the questions have been put on the record and the hearing officer has stated that RLD will process and respond to them.
Next steps towards promulgation of the rules include a review by RLD Superintendent Linda Trujillo of the hearing, comments and exhibits presented. If Trujillo and RLD decide to change the proposed rules, a second hearing may be necessary, depending on whether the changes go beyond the hearing. Assuming a second hearing is not necessary, the rules will be filed and come into effect 30 days later.
Even though RLD has a legal deadline to start accepting nominations and establish an advisory committee by September 1 of this year, there is no specific deadline for enacting the rules. But a spokesperson for RLD said the department aims to put the rules in place by the September 1 deadline.
The department must also begin issuing commercial cannabis licenses no later than January 1, 2022, and by law retail sales of cannabis must begin no later than April 1, 2022.