October 12, 2019

Additional cannabis producer asks to intervene in lawsuit over plant count

Joe Gratz


A potential new party to a lawsuit filed against the New Mexico Department of Health could further complicate the issue of how much medical cannabis is enough for the state. 

Medical cannabis producer R. Greenleaf has asked a state judge to allow the company to intervene in a lawsuit filed by three other medical cannabis companies that argue the state’s mandated limit on cannabis plants should be raised to better meet demands. R. Greenleaf, through its lawyer, argued that the three producers calling for a higher plant limit are not representative of the rest of the medical cannabis industry. Earlier this year, R. Greenleaf submitted its own study to the DOH and argued that producers need less than 1,500 plants to adequately supply patients with cannabis. 

The lawsuit, filed by producers Ultra Health, Sacred Garden and G & G Genetics, argues that the most recent plant limit increase did not go far enough and that the DOH did not use reliable data to reach the current plant limit of 1,750. The lawsuit says the state did not account for things like additional qualifying conditions and a recent court ruling that allows non-residents of New Mexico to become medical cannabis patients. 

“The New Mexico Department of Health and Secretary [Kathyleen] Kunkel have promulgated an administrative rule that violates a valid, un-appealed order from the First Judicial District Court,” the initial lawsuit read. “The rule also contradicts the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act and defeats the purpose and fulfillment of that statute.”  

The DOH has not filed a response yet, but the request by R. Greenleaf to intervene implies a disagreement amongst producers about whether New Mexico has, or is headed towards a shortage of medical cannabis. Willie Ford, the managing director of the medical cannabis management and consulting company Reynolds Greenleaf and Associates, which oversees R. Greenleaf, could not be reached before publication and his attorney Michael Cadigan said he was not cleared to speak to reporters on the issue. 

In its request to intervene, R. Greenleaf argued that the company has a direct interest in the DOH’s plant count rule and a change to that rule could impact the R. Greenleaf’s “ability to protect that interest.”

“[R. Greeneaf’s] interests are not adequately represented by existing parties, because their interests are diverse,” the request read. “No other [medical cannabis producer] that advocated for a plant count close to the Department of Health’s proposed number is a party to this action.”

When the DOH issued an emergency rule to temporarily raise plant limits to 2,500, R. Greenleaf’s management company, Reynolds Greenleaf & Associates, submitted its own research that suggested a plant limit of 1,478 per producer. 

The request to intervene also noted that the DOH was not opposed to R. Greenleaf’s entry, but that one of the plaintiffs, Ultra Health, was. 

Rodriguez said he thinks it is too soon to assume that a judge will side with the plaintiffs. 

“It does seem premature,” Rodriguez said of R. Greenleaf’s motion.